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Words Are Fires

Posted by Priscilla on May 17, 2013

Nothing on this earth ignites my passion more than words -- and the truth they reveal. If I find someone who feels the same way, I know I have found another member of what Anne (of Anne of Green Gables fame) called the “house of Joseph.” Once I even married that kindred spirit.

I can become exercised over your cavalier attitude toward a word. “What does it matter,” you might say, “whether I use tight or taut. Don’t they mean the same thing? And I like rise better than soar. It doesn’t change the meaning, right?” 

 

No, no, no.

Please understand that words are like people. Each one is unique. Each one has a fingerprint that changes the meaning of an entire sentence even if the dictionary says two words are synonyms. Oh my goodness, wouldn’t you far rather soar to worlds unknown than simply rise? Rising is so boring. I can picture you in an upright (standing) position, arms outstretched while some unknown force pulls you up by the roots of your hair. Meanwhile, I am flying under my own steam when I soar. I can see where I’m going. So much better. So much more exciting. You see how connotations matter?

I can be saddened when you use a false word.  Have you ever changed our words’ meanings to fit your agenda? Perhaps you malign, smear, disparage, vilify, and defame someone in high places and call it “telling the truth.” Is it not really just “slander?” False words diminish you. They diminish me. And they break the bond of trust between us.

What about ugly words? Oh, my. Standing in the pharmacy line at the Rite Aid today, an impatient woman behind me began to curse at the wait. Picture me scraping words off my shoulders and trying to fling them to the ground. Sometimes they stick to the fabric of my coat, though. How do I wash ugliness out?

Words matter more than almost anything else in life because they construct the theologies we live by. Words express reality, but they reveal identity. Words determine destiny. For that reason alone, we should use great care with words.

Some liar once made up that old playground ditty, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

The truth is, words are swords that pierce, separating marrow and bone. Words are fires that roar, cleansing what is left after destruction. Words are oils that soothe, bringing life and peace.

What does this mean for the writer?

  1. Use care. Think carefully. Why did you choose this word over that one?
  2. Go for the word that provides strength when vigor is needed, muscle when dominance is expected, vulnerability when frailty is experienced, and serenity when reconciliation occurs. In other words, choose the right word.
  3. Your words are creating a reality for other people.  Do you like that reality? Is it true to your vision, your theology of life? Is it true in a way that honors others?
  4. Eschew ugliness. Embrace truth.

 

Comments:

Posted by say on
I know a person who will not put a word to paper unless it is the perfect word. His/her writing is like a forest awakening, perfect. Yet noting is ever finished. Nothing makes it to paper. It is a tragedy that fabulous is the captive of perfection.
Posted by Janet Erickson on
I recently submitted something for publication in a magazine, and it was accepted (hurrah!). However the editor asked me to change one word, in the 2,000+ word piece. I knew she was right, because a few others had questioned the same word. I realized I had not been diligent to find the exact right word. So I went to work through the thesaurus, running strings of words and synonyms. And I found the right word. I just hadn't worked hard enough to begin with, but it was there when I went looking. I LOVE WORDS. (This is a reason why we have to respect the Bible, God's WORDS, and not casually be changing it to fit who we think we are. God got it right.)
Posted by Priscilla on
Interesting to read both those comments together. Good can always get better, but good can also be corrupted, idolized.
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