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Words Matter

Words Matter

by Kay Vander Vort

As I am scheduling spiritual direction sessions for this September after an eight-month absence, I have noticed several people mentioning they are struggling with the divisiveness in our country. The question has come up, “is this an appropriate topic for spiritual Direction?” My answer is a resounding “YES!”
I too struggle with a spiritual heaviness when I read and watch the news and feel inadequate to address the many issues and strong opinions.

The beginning of an answer came to me in the August 11th edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune in an article entitled, “If Your Words Are Public, Improve Them,” by Beret Guidera. The author says in no uncertain words, “you, all of you, cannot continue hurtful, hateful, demeaning and condemning words. This is not helpful.” She tells us of a method used in elementary schools to help teach children how important their words are. One of them is the acronym THINK. Before you speak, run this through your head: is what I am about to say:

TRUE?
HELPFUL?
INSPIRING?
NECESSARY?
KIND?

If you cannot answer yes don’t say it!

KIND is what struck me. Ten years ago I was asked to give an hour long keynote address on the topic Turning our World into Something Kind. I said yes, but wondered what on earth I was thinking. The topic was overwhelming. In my research I found many great quotes on kindness – most helpful though, was keeping a kindness journal where I tried to capture examples of kindness in my own life and experience.

I was amazed at how many daily examples there were.

I also remembered one of my discernment questions over the years when a difficult situation came up “what is the kindest thing to do in this situation?”

I have been increasingly aware that words matter – even what we think matters!

One of the quotes that inspired me comes from Presbyterian minister Frederick Buechner:

“Go now into the world and realize how much a tired and hurting world needs your help and gladness (I substitute kindness). Know that there are deeds of compassion and courage that will never be done unless you do them, and words of hope and healing that will never be spoken unless you speak them”.

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