Today is an Other.
There’s a verse from the New Testament book of 2 Timothy, chapter 2, The Message translation (man, that’s a lot of modifiers) that keeps rolling around in my head. They form a song that is just stuck on a continual loop, and they alternately inspire me to believe that great things are possible and that the world has become a Byzantine Hell.
“Words are not mere words, you know. If they’re not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul.”
As a writer, I love words. As a preacher/speaker/writer, I really love words. I’ve seen firsthand the power of a well-placed phrase or word to turn a person’s entire day around. I’ve also seen the ugly side of words. Recently, I’ve seen it more than ever before.
I don’t know if I’ve suddenly become more perceptive (which sounds like a brag, but it’s not; it’s like I’ve suddenly developed a lexicographical Spider-sense) or if the world has just gotten meaner, but my soul feels inundated lately with words of hate and anger and malice. Maybe I need to quit reading the news. Or change my Facebook settings. Or follow new people on Twitter. Regardless, I’ve been overwhelmed the past few days with a sense of hopelessness that borders on pathology; it’s been a few years since I’ve felt the need for anti-depressants, but I caught myself wondering yesterday if I needed to call the doc and get the ‘scrip refilled.
It took just sitting in silence, staring at an empty computer screen, hoping for some kind of words to come tumbling out, for me to realize that what was troubling me was words. Other people’s words. My words. Careless words. Masquerading words. Hurtful words.
Words rooted in rotten thinking.
To be honest, I’m tired of reading the latest Culture Wars postings. I’m tired of the in-your-face rhetoric, the taunts, the de-personalization that leads to people being characterized in such broad ways as to render any individuality moot. I’m tired of 99%-ers and 1%-ers, Republicans and Democrats, Atheists and Christians, and whatever else is out there polluting the airwaves. I’m tired of every moment in life being amped up to the point that you can’t even breathe without it feeling like an anxiety attack. I’m tired of people wanting to convert, convert, convert the person who doesn’t walk in lock-step with a personal ideal. I’m tired of being barraged with yet another freaking Facebook post asking me to buy something that will help me lose weight, and then asks me to turn around and sell it myself.
Wait. Different rant. Strike that last sentence.
Mostly, I’m tired of one of the things (conceptually, anyway) that I love so dearly being used as an instrument of my own demise.
I’m tired, in short, of words.
And that makes me sad. It has frustrated me beyond description to sit down and want to write something but not have the energy to write it – not because I don’t have something to say, but because I don’t have the energy to defend myself whenever that one person inevitably reads that one sentence out of context in their own head and decides to make me pay for their incorrect presumptions. I’m not stupid – I realize that by putting my thoughts into a public forum I am inviting public comment, even rebuke if the public doesn’t like what I have to say. I accept that. It’s part of the writer’s territory.
But what I am weary of is the fact that EVERY post, every Facebook status, every Tweet, every stray thought that escapes mine or someone else’s brain, automatically becomes Ground Zero for some people’s ideological Armageddon. It’s a gross exaggeration, but the fact that I even have to type that I know it’s a gross exaggeration is because I KNOW SOMEONE WILL COME ALONG AND FIND FAULT WITH ME USING EXAGGERATION AS IF I BELIEVE IT TO BE FACT.
When, in fact, I’m keenly aware I’m exaggerating for effect. Not manipulation.
(Side note: sorry for the all caps. I suddenly channeled my inner-grandma who just got on “the Facebooks” and doesn’t know caps lock is a no-no. I apologize.)
Words are more than mere words. They can be hammers. They can be bridges. They can be medicine. They can be death. Unfortunately, not everyone realizes this; or if they do, then they don’t care two-whits about the people on the receiving end. I know not everyone subscribes to my religious views, but even if you take the word godly out of that 2 Timothy quote, there’s still a lot of truth to the statement that empty words are just poison to the souls of everyone you meet.
Including your own.
And that sums up what I’ve been feeling: poisoned. Contaminated. Infected. Like having the flu, or a bad reaction to a not-so-well-cooked burger from Greasy Ed’s Burger Joint and Oil Change Emporium (“We’ll grease your engine and your innards!”).
The funny part is that this post will do nothing to help the actual situation, but I can honestly say that I feel better for having typed it. Eloquent it may not be, but it’s honest, and it comes from my desire to live a life that makes my words count.
And that is all I can do: make my words, and the life that gives them utterance, count.