Worthy and Unworthy Words

Source: medium.com

It is already a year since COVID-19 arrived on our doorstep. It took us by surprise, and having to adjust to a new way of living resulted in many significant changes. Perhaps because we were limited in our social interactions, I took to listening more than usual.

What I discovered, is that people seem to have lost the art of good conversation. Living in a small bubble with the occasional Zoom calls has wrecked havoc on our dialogue. People have lapsed into using the meaningless phrase “you know” almost all the time. It is inserted into many sentences as fillers, avoiding gaps in speech.

It is rather tiresome to hear those words over and over again, especially when listening to TV commentators trying to make a relevant point. I have attempted to count the “you know” in some speeches, and given up in exasperation

Interjections like “I guess/I mean,” are “basically” unconscious devices that act as a pause in a sentence, as speakers gather their thoughts. However, these fillers have infiltrated our daily conversations to the point of damaging the power and beauty of verbal communication. These conversation fillers can be conversation killers.

Someone recently said, “Singing songs is like, totally fun at family gatherings, you know.” Removing “like, “totally” and “you know” the sentence is simple, “Singing songs is fun at family gatherings.” This verbal virus can be distracting by excessive overuse.

Perhaps you will agree with me that the idiomatic use of the word “like” has reached epidemic proportions!

Then there are the common responses “exactly,” “tell me about it,” “absolutely,” as one chats with another, followed by a sprinkling like raisins in a bowl of raisin bran of “it is what it is,” because “at the end of the day” the Coronavirus will be hanging around for a while, alas!

I wonder what George Bernard Shaw the author of Pygmalion would say about how we speak today. The musical “My Fair Lady” based on that play, has Rex Harrison in the role of Professor Henry Higgins bemoaning the fact that people have butchered the English language.

Annoyed, he sings, “Why can’t the English teach their children how to speak?” If training Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) a common flower girl, to achieve a better accent with the social advantages that accompany it was exhausting, imagine his dismay at hearing how we talk.

Of course, other than the common phrases cited, we have over the past year acquired a new vocabulary, pandemic related! We are now all so familiar with what the following words mean: herd immunity; flatten the curve; PPE; super-spreader; asymptomatic… Social distancing is a MUST, as we have learned that quarantine and isolation are not the same thing.

On the plus side, forced to stay home to avoid spreading the virus, has given me the opportunity to read good books. Moving from our everyday lives crowded with too many unworthy words, to Scripture with the divine stamp, definitely lifts my spirits.

I love the Prologue to John’s Gospel, and often say aloud, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.” The first word of the Hebrew Scripture bereshit, means beginning. The WORD was “God from God, light from light, true God from true God.” The amazing thing was that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us – fully human and fully divine.

Henri Nouwen says, “the word has the power to create. When God speaks, God creates. When God says, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3), light is…for God speaking and creating is the same. It is this creative power of the word we need to reclaim. What we say is very important. When we say, “I love you,” and say it from the heart, we give another person new life, new hope, new courage.”

My spiritual life is nourished by God’s word, described as being both milk and solid food in Hebrews 5:12-14, and I am delighted by the spiritual nutrients I receive. I often walk around my kitchen singing, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105) believing that God is guiding me along the way.

Undoubtedly, I receive strength during trials and difficulties when I meditate on Jesus’ words, “Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and acts on them…is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock, and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.” (Luke 6:47-48)

At every Mass, we are invited to, “Lift up your hearts,” and our reply is, “We lift them up to the Lord.” Since we say these words so often, they can become routine. If we ponder them, we can truly be brought into God’s presence.

Words do have a huge impact and create a lasting memory. Our choice of words, worthy or unworthy, and the way we express them, can make a big difference. As St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”

Viola Athaide, a student of Theology, is actively involved in parish life, leading Bible courses, the Prayer Group, and the Ministry with Maturing Adults.

  • Maria Lobo
    Posted at 10:40h, 20 April Reply

    Bravo, Viola!!!
    Thank you for using this COVID season to bless the world with your Spirit-filled wisdom with words (poems, as well as articles!)…and with sharing about your ever-growing relationship with the “Word of God!” You have a very positive approach to this “fear-demic!”
    Reflecting on that stunning musical “My Fair Lady,” brought back many fond memories for me, sis.
    Thank you for always using your God-given gifts for the glory of God…in season & out of season….COVID or not!

  • Teresa Correia
    Posted at 14:54h, 20 April Reply

    Thanks Viola
    Beautifully said

  • Sylvia Lee
    Posted at 17:45h, 20 April Reply

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Viola.
    Both Worthy and Unworthy Words, we listen …

    God bless. Stay safe and well !

  • Linda R Rego
    Posted at 20:27h, 20 April Reply

    Perfect timing Viola, like, you know, this is a totally awesome article. lol As for the “unworthy” words, I think they have been around a long while, perhaps we are just paying them more attention with the crazy state of this pandemic forcing us to spend more alone time. As for your “worthy” words, well, all of these words are keeping my hopeful heart aflitter (I just made up that word.) lol Love you dear SIL.

  • Ibrahim Karam
    Posted at 07:11h, 21 April Reply

    Wonderful and deep in meanings. To have the creative word working in these times is a testament that our faith is a living faith. While meditating on the word of our lord augmented our in person bible gatherings, it probably (meditating) is augmented by cyber bible meetings these days
    A wonderful heart beatings along the words of the divine
    Thanks Viola

  • Doreen Pinto
    Posted at 10:38h, 21 April Reply

    Loved the article on ‘Words’ Viola, specially when people say “you know” – it made me chuckle quite a bit because I know a few ‘you know’ people who just don’ know how to finish their sentences.
    Beautifully written; I immediately gave God thanks for His gift, the way you put words together is amazing.
    God Bless

  • suzanne renaud
    Posted at 12:02h, 21 April Reply

    Well written and so true. Thank you!

  • Rosa Scarpino
    Posted at 17:01h, 21 April Reply

    Thank you Viola for remind us of the importance of words and their effects on us. As a person whose first language is Italian, I’ve noticed the decline of the use of this beautiful English language in conversation and the use of so many “fillers”. Thanks again, God love you, Rosa.

  • Lorella D'Cruz
    Posted at 19:59h, 21 April Reply

    A lovely, light-hearted invitation for us to be more discerning in our use of the spoken word in daily communication, while urging us ponder the awesome significance of the Incarnation. Well done, Viola.

  • Ana. Maria
    Posted at 19:25h, 22 April Reply

    …………even when there is not a Word said, we hear words…..messages……

    ANOTHER KILLER whatever>>>>>>>

    Words are powerful to créate to express émotions
    Words are made for us THÉ HUMAN BEINGS…..What could we do without them?
    After every Gospel we hear thé Priest say
    THÈSE words live in Our hearts for Ever
    Words are made to give Life……
    Thank you Viola, It is always good to remember what are words made for and use them properly to dignify us!!!!!!!

  • Fay Vaz
    Posted at 23:23h, 22 April Reply

    Once again Viola, you have taken a topic so rare and composed it .
    How true that we so use these “fillers” as you term it and now I’m more aware of my words when I speak.
    I did get a chuckle reflecting on how many times I have spoken in that manner and never paid much attention of how often others spoke that way too. Very well written and my the Holy Spirit enlighten you to share your talents to enlighten others. God Bless you now and always

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 01:58h, 23 April Reply

    Thank you Viola!

  • Eleanor Rebello
    Posted at 09:13h, 24 April Reply

    A clever mash up of words and The Word, Viola !

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