The power of the spoken word is profound. Here’s how to use it in a positive way.
Posted in , Oct 19, 2018
When I attend services at my synagogue, one of the most meaningful moments is a verse from Psalm 51 that we recite to prepare for a series of blessings known as Amidah, or Standing Prayers: “God, open up my lips, so my mouth may proclaim Your praise.”
In his second grade religious school class, my son has learned to sing that verse in Hebrew, to a tune that includes, in English, “Open my lips to good words, to pure words, open my heart to love.”
At any age, the power of the spoken word can’t be overstated. And yet sometimes the quality of the words that pass our lips is less than we hope for or expect from ourselves. When stress or worry weighs on us, we can find ourselves saying things we don’t mean, using our remarkable power of speech in negative ways.
To keep my language in check, I turn to a simple, elegant technique I also learned from my son—the idea that before we speak, we should stop and “THINK” to ensure our words are:
In the speedy swirl of everyday life, it can feel hard to examine each word choice this closely. But practiced over time, THINK can become an automatic internal guide that gently shepherds our words in a positive direction.
It’s the combination of the THINK ideas that strikes me most. Honesty is a high value, but remembering that true words also need to be necessary and kind can save us from being bluntly hurtful to someone we care about. Information can be important, but if it’s not helpful in the moment to someone who is struggling, it’s not worth saying aloud. Kindness is paramount, but if you can’t truthfully say something kind in a heated moment, it’s better to take a break from speaking.
I love Psalm 51 so much because it is a prayer to have a voice—but also a desire that we might have the insight and discernment to choose to use our voice in a way that serves both our lives and the wider world. It’s an invitation to think (or THINK) before we speak, and to make our words wise, positive proclamations for all to hear.