Words matter. Speech is powerful. Oratory moves nations to both war and peace. The 271 words of the Gettysburg Address spoken by President Lincoln. ‘While it is Lincoln’s short speech that has gone down in history as one of the finest examples of English public oratory, it was Everett’s two hour oration that was slated to be the ‘Gettysburg Address’ that day.’ Wikipedia
President John F. Kennedy asked the question, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’ These words inspired a generation to the Peace Corps and other public service.
Jesus Christ is referred to as the word, ‘And the word became flesh, and dwelt among us; and we saw His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.’ John 1:14
Words have a magical and mystical power. They have the power to uplift and encourage and give the energy and vision to carry on… Words can also deceive and discourage and demoralize. Words created Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Words created our United States democracy.
Throughout my life I have noticed that what people say to me affects me. I am moved by kind and inspirational words and I am hurt by hateful and unkind comments. I have labored under a leader’s comments that were chaotic and divisive and I have been the recipient of healing words that are applied like a balm on the wounds of life. Neither is guaranteed…it is up to us which we choose…
Forty-one years ago when I became a crew supervisor at Southern Illinois University in Building Services…I set my heart and purpose to be a healer rather than a destroyer. I had been wounded by the slings and arrows of callous comments that the speaker neither considered or cared what the affect of their words would be on the person that they were directing them at. I understood what it was like to work 16 or more hours per day and be labeled as ‘lazy.’ I understood how a person’s best efforts could be marginalized and discounted in favor of another preferred person. I wondered if my plight was my poor appearance or my lack of formal education or simply the luck of the draw? When I become a supervisor and later a manager/administrator…I decided to treat people like I wanted to be treated. I had noticed how the American term of ‘Horseplay’ had hurt many people that I had witnessed receiving this supposedly innocent American practice. Rather than being funny or good natured humor…I felt the pain that the practice caused. I had been the recipient of and had mentally recorded on numerous occasions the arrogance of, just a little power, and the deleterious demoralization it had on the poor employees that had to absorb it or be without a means of feeding their family.
Bullying is not a normal right of passage. It is a perversion practiced by insecure individuals who want to bolster their lack of confidence by tearing down those around them.
There is a saying that power corrupts and ultimate power corrupts ultimately. It does not have to be that way. I shared a stanza from Amanda Gorman’s tremendous Inaugural Poem that spoke of, ‘We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, characters and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gazes, not to what stands between us.
We close the divide because we know to put our future first.
We must put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.’
‘He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.’ Isaiah 2:4
The Poet’s admonition is not about the right to bear arms…it about the learning of war no more. As long as we see each other as two dimensional characterizations and not as fully formed creatures of the God that we attribute our creation to…we will hide in our houses and peek out of our windows and wonder when the others…are going to go away…