Thursday, February 9, 2012

I Got Your "Other Cheek" Right Here!

What's in a word? What is a word? It's a simple thing really when you think about it. When written, it is nothing but shapes and scribbles that we have attached a certain meaning to. When spoken, they are a series of sounds orchestrated by our mouths and vocal chords that also convey a certain meaning. String a couple of them together and you have a clever quip. String a few more together and you've got the lyrics to a Green Day song. String a whole crap load of them together and you have a clever and witty blog...*wink!* And if you continue to string you will eventually end up with Shakespeare and the slew of holy texts we now hold sacred.

We have seen the power not only of the written word, but also of the spoken word. By the power of the spoken word, nations have been swayed to the cause of he who spoke them. This has happened both for the good and also for many of the great evils our world has seen. Few of us however, will ever know the opportunity of standing and addressing a nation. Few of us will ever experience the awesome responsibility of that kind of mantle. For most of us, the extent of our speakings is about as vast as our little worlds, and families, and maybe even work or school, or religious organization.

In the Latter-Day Saint culture, when a boy turns 19 he is offered the opportunity to serve a 2 year mission, where his sole responsibility is to spread the gospel, or the word of God. Every year, literally thousands of individuals around the world hear these missionaries speak and read the words of The Book of Mormon, and believe the messages contained in both. Because of this, the church continues to grow at a rate that is like a snowball traveling down a mountain side, or the rate at which the world is becoming infected with "Bieber Fever". I've not personally contracted it, but I hear it's not pleasant.

These are just a couple of examples of what we could call the power of the word. I am still amazed to this day when I hear people say things like, "They're just words". JUST words? Sounds like the old school yard doctrine of, "Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me." What a pile of ...tripe. But seriously, raise of hands; who out there has Never, not once their whole lives, been hurt by the words of another person? If you haven't then I believe you to be a liar! How did that feel? Not so good I'm guessing, but also not the point. The point is that we have all been wounded to whatever extent by the intentional, but more than likely unintentional word shanks of another person. More than likely too, this was a person we cared a great deal about; those shanks shank the deepest. *Note to self: Submit never song title idea to Bruno Mars*

 (The use of the word Shank is in relation to a makeshift knife found commonly in prisons and my families Thanksgiving dinners)

For those of you who are Harry Potter fans, you will appreciate an analogy I recently heard, about how we are to view the words we speak each day. The author of the book I was reading stated that our words are like magic spells, and that they could be used to cast dark and evil spells, or good spells. I believe that there is a great deal of truth in this. I also believe that no matter how strong the wizard, anyone can be taken down with a strong enough spell.

As you might have already surmised from my bloggings, I am a lover of the word. Ever since I was very young, my father instilled in me the importance of being well spoken. Later in life as I pursued a pseudo career in the entertainment field, and in particular, the comedy vein, I became even more aware of the power of the word. I began to extract knowledge from whatever source I could in order to build up my "spells", if you will, thereby making me the most powerful wizard around! And even though I am no Shakespeare, nor am I even no Eddie Izzard (favorite British transvestite comedian), I feel like I can hold my own in a battle of words, should the situation ever call for it. But as that other comic book thingy that people really like stated, "With great power comes great responsibility." I wish I could stand here and tell you that I have only ever used my words to cast good spells on people, and for that matter, on myself, but unfortunately, this is not the case. I am ashamed to admit that on many of occasion, I have been a wizard of the dark arts....forgive me Harry....

I don't believe I am alone on this Titanic, however that does not excuse I, nor any of the rest of us. But just so we are clear; if we are doing the whole 'cast the first stone' thing, then I deserve as many peltings as anyone, maybe even more. What I'm trying to say here, is I won't be chucking any rocks any time soon. All I can do is try and draw our attention to the fact that we are all not only riddled with word shank wounds, but also adding insult to injury by means of stones.

It is SO easy to hide behind a computer screen or a text message and spew forth a variable assault of hurtful and damaging words. Sometimes we do it out of anger, and sometimes we do it out of retaliation; he shanked first and I only shanked back. But really, come on, when you sit and really think about it, is a shanking ever truly justified? How has returning hate with hate ever helped anybody? Have I done it? You bet cha. Did I feel justified in that moment? Hecks yes. But am I under any delusion that whatever justification I came up with at the time will hold even a spits worth of weight when my actions are laid out before me like a buffet table at my finale judgement? I think not; though it might be funny to try. "Gee *insert Deity of your choice here*, I really thought that her neutral refusal to go out with me again totally merited my use of the term heinous vapid sea cow all over her facebook wall." Good luck with that.

So what are we to do? I guess we could stick with the classic, "If you cant say something nice, then don't say anything at all" route. But for most of us, I fear this would severely limit our frequency of speech.

 Men of the world REJOICE! for I have given you peace on earth and muchly silenced your wives and girlfriends!

 We women do tend to do a bit of the gossiping. However, I am noticing a LOT of particularly caddy men finding their voices these days. And I'm  not talking about the obvious attacks here. It is easy to realize when you are being a blatant jerk to someone. I'm referring to the sly stuff, the sort of hummingbird approach to word shanking. If you will, picture a way a hummingbird as it quickly flits from place to place, flower to flower, feeder to feeder. They are gentle and almost covert in the way they feed. If at any time while watching said bird you happen to blink, you may lose them entirely.

This subtle covert action is the kind of which I am warning that we all need to be a bit more aware of. Never mind the fact that we were really  "just letting them know", or "just saying what everybody else was thinking". Whether we thought it was necessary or for their own good, or however else we want to try and justify it; the reality is that we are using words to cause harm to those around us. And whether the actual harm was indented  or not, is irrelevant.

I have had several experiences in my life that have tried to teach me that my words can be used for my ultimate gain, or my utter destruction. I look back and literally cringe at the moments in my life when I would have been much better served by keeping my big mouth shut. Some of you might be thinking that  this might constitute as one of those moments. But no matter how many times I have burned a bridge or nearly destroyed a relationship, I still to this day struggle with controlling the seemingly endless stream of hurtful word shanks that I dish out. I can honestly say that the majority of these were done in ignorance, in that at the time it didn't even occur to me that they might in turn end up wounding somebody. But this is a lame and pitiful excuse, and in no way a justification. How could I have possibly thought that my words would do anything But end up hurting someone? I may have been ignorant, but an ignorant person does not innocent person make.

So here is what I am proposing for myself; if you would like to join me in this venture then I applaud and welcome your support. The concept is simple, the execution I image, a bit more tricky. Here is the idea: Every time you go to open your mouth, put pen to paper or finger to keypad, STOP. Stop and ask yourself this question, "Is there any way that somebody may be hurt by the things I am about to say, either intentionally or unintentionally?" If the answer is an honest no, then spew forth; but if the answer that comes back is a maybe, possibly, probably, or most assuredly, then perhaps it would be best if you left this particular spell uncast.

There are a million and one very "good" reasons as to why we lash out sometimes. And there are plenty of arguments to be made about ignorant people who truly do need to be informed about their own ignorance, lest they continue to harm others in turn. I am not saying that we need become door mats, or that we cease to stand up for ourselves when we find ourselves in the midst of an all out prison shanking, but I believe there is a way to deal with those situations that don't include returning the favor.

When Christ taught to "turn the other cheek", what I don't think he meant was anything akin to just sit there and be shanked. I think that rather, what he was possibly trying to say is that the cycle of hate has to stop somewhere. If we return stab with stab, then all we are ever going to end up with are a bunch of individuals with internal bleeding. At some point, somebody has to put the knife down. And then maybe, we can only hope,  in that refusal to retaliate, it will inspire the attacker to in turn lay their weapon down.

 I'm not saying it's easy, or that it is the end all be all cure for all human suffering, but it's a start.

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