For as long as I can remember, I have loved words. I remember a class in elementary school where we learned how to look up the origin of words. I found this thrilling! In fact, I liked it so much that when I got to high school and learned I could take a Latin Class, I signed up. I loved learning where these words we say all the time come from!
Likely, the real reason I do not remember the yearbook caption is that I was more focused on words. I really believe in the power of words, how we say them, and what they mean.
I have joked with others many times about my high school Latin class. I was even President of the school’s Latin Club. Why is this funny? I wrote the caption under the yearbook picture of the Latin Club and at the end of the school year, I could not remember (or even discover) what I had written. Before you judge me, remember this was way before Google Translate. I had no idea how to figure out what it says. So goes the saying, “Latin killed the Romans and now it is killing me!” Likely, the real reason I do not remember the yearbook caption is that I was more focused on words. I really believe in the power of words, how we say them, and what they mean. I read scriptures and other books with a dictionary nearby. One of the best gifts I ever received was a concordance to go along with my scripture study. Oh, how I loved to look up the original Hebrew and Greek.
What we say, how we say it, and what words we choose has great power. When we know how to define a word, it can really transform things. Words and definitions are amazing! I have been pondering lately on how people define themselves. In many ways, we use words to describe ourselves, our lives, and each other. We are also quick to label our experiences and challenges. My family gets a great laugh out of a favorite Tim Hawkins comedy routine about the use of words. He jests about describing things as “the worst” or “unbelievable.” The words we use and how we define ourselves really matters!
Of particular concern to me as I pen these thoughts this early Sunday morning, is how we use words to define ourselves. We have words we say when we feel great! We say things like “I am on top of the world!” We may celebrate a good fortune or wonderful event with phrases like “I am so blessed!” or “I am so lucky!” We may say that we are loving, genuine, authentic, or even talented. We can use all kinds of phrases to describe and delineate who we are, what we do, and how we feel. The words we choose have power.
My main concern is when we use words to define ourselves in a negative way. I am not saying here that it is wrong to say we had a horrible day or we made an awful mistake. While it is true that I think we should be cautious about phrases such as these, I want to highlight another area that is concerning to me. Maybe shedding some light on this area will help you or someone you love.
I am concerned about using words in a way that we define ourselves by something that is happening to us or has happened to us. All too often, I overhear people saying things like “I am widowed,” “I am divorced,” “I am disabled,” and more. You may say that this is just a label or status. However, I believe at times that these phrases when applied to us and our lives can take on a more troublesome meaning. They can become part of our identity.
When we define ourselves by something that has happened to us, we may, in fact, take upon ourselves some of that definition. I have worked with people who have endured all sorts of trials. How they define themselves working through that trial, really shapes that recovery. Those who define themselves with an event or occurrence in their life fared worse than those who maintained a more solid identity.
Truth be told, we all have had some sort of negative event in our lives. It is part of the deal here on earth. When we label ourselves as “a thing” we risk becoming that thing (and all that entails). And rarely is that ever a positive. In fact, it often destroys souls as we say, then accept the stereotypes and meanings so often associated with the way we describe the events in our lives.
There is a better way. We should always label ourselves (and hopefully others too) with divine unchanging labels. Phrases like “I am a child of God” come to mind. Or we might say things like “I am capable,” “I am brave.” and more. We can talk about our efforts with sayings like “I gave it my all” and “I really worked hard at this.” This is so much better than defining ourselves by something that happened to us.
So, let’s look at the words we say with more care and precision, especially when we are talking about ourselves.
Let’s seek to label ourselves by things that are permanent and deep inside of us. When I discovered this power of words to affect my life in positive ways, it transformed me. I am more likely to ask myself “How was I all in today?” or focus on remembering that “I am enough” for each thing I face. It really makes a difference!
When we speak of ourselves (and others) let’s be careful about the words we choose because words truly do have power to shape us!