Our words reveal to everyone and to ourselves what we’re feeling and thinking. Our favorite and repeated expressions reveal what we believe, and they shape our experiences.
The principle that words have great force is an ancient and powerful one. As shamans, priests and political leaders have known for centuries, chants, prayers, mantras, commands, and names attest to the power of words.
The Old Testament writers knew the power of the word. “Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee” (Job 22:28). The act of creation was first a spoken one: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn.1:1).
The Greek term for Word, Logos, signifies more than mere words. Logos embodies the supreme Word that we can trust, count on, and evoke with rightful power in every circumstance. Make this concept part of your vocabulary and thought.
The Power of the Word
Jesus consistently demonstrated the power of the Word and its effects. Read his imperative words:
As His fame grew, “many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.” (Mt. 8:16)
When a leper asked for healing, he touched the man and said, “‘Be clean!’ And immediately the leprosy left him.” (Lk. 5:13)
To a man with a withered hand, he said, “‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.” (Mk. 3:5)
To a child who had seizures, he verbally “rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.” (Mt.17:18)
To a woman who had been crippled and bent over for 18 years, he declared, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” He then put his hands on her, and she instantly straightened up. (Lk.13:12-13)
To a man who lay sick for 38 years by the healing pool of Bethesda, he directed, “‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.’ At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.” (Jn. 5:8-9)
To His own devilish temptations of materialism and worldly power, he proclaimed, “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” (Lk. 4:8)
For his friend Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, Jesus performed the supreme feat. In a loud voice, he com manded, “Lazarus, come out!” Lazarus walked out of the tomb. (Jn. 11:43-44)
We have this same power to speak our words, drive out our negative and fatalistic “spirits,” and resurrect our lives. We have the power to recharge our faith and become whole, to command our personal devils to get behind us. They’ve been blocking our way much too long.
Speak the words that are right for you, and they’ll become true in your life.
As you think, so you speak.
As you speak, so you think.
So you live.
Speaking Our Words
We don’t have to enlist our new words only in severe situations with dramatic declarations. Everyday instances may be more important than critical episodes. Tama Kieves quotes a Tibetan proverb, and I’m sure every other culture has its own version: “If you want to know your future, look at what you’re doing in this moment.”
We build our lives by our choices, day by day, moment by moment. We build our lives thought by thought, phrase by phrase, word by word.
Compare the following sets of sentences.
~ I’ll never finish this.
~ I’ll take this in small steps to completion.
~ I’ve avoided this.
~ I’ve needed more time to warm up to it.
~ I’m terrible at this.
~ I’ll get better with practice.
What do the first sentences of each set have in common? You instantly see their negativity, driven by self-condemning words: never ... avoided ... terrible.
The second sentences? At the least, they’re less disparaging. Contrary to what you may be thinking, they acknowledge the present situation but in a more positive light.
Like most of us, you’re probably pretty good at using the first sentence in each pair. How do these words make you feel?
Read the second sentence of each pair. How do you feel?
When I asked a friend these questions, she exclaimed, “Wow! The first sentence fastens an albatross around both my ankles. The second is a divine cooling breeze sweeping into the endless sweltering summer of my guilt!” (Excuse her literary allusion and hyperbole; she’s a writer too.)
My friend was right. The second sentence in each set gives us compassion, charitableness, hope, forgiveness, perseverance. Each describes the same event as the first sentence but in words that don’t make you want to go run and hide under the bed.
Reframe your words. Recast them so they don’t blame and attack you. Talk to yourself with the words you’d use with a dear friend or your own beloved child or pet. Reframe with generous glue.
Use the Right Glue
The words we use with ourselves stick. They set up patterns in our minds and bodies and draw our blueprints for the future. By our words and labels, and our beliefs in those of others, we glue ourselves to the past and forecast unsavory patterns for the future.
Your self-pronouncements, not “reality,” are the reasons you’re restless, depressed, hard to live with, frustrated, guilty, too fat, too gaunt, feeling caught in a dead-end job, and mad at the world. Our treasured judgments help us rationalize why we can’t improve our lives and reach our dreams.
Here are a few nullifying assertions most of us have verbalized or heard (ad infinitum) from others:
Our Disparaging Words to Ourselves
* I’m no good at numbers, so I couldn’t succeed in business.
* I’m not a morning person. How can I become a personal trainer and meet clients who need to be at the gym at 7 a.m.?
* I don’t have the discipline to succeed.
* I can’t ever get anywhere on time. How could I run a courier service?
* Following through has never been one of my strengths. I’ll never finish this painting/poem/song/scrapbook/exercise program/diet/course/project.
* The spare room has too much junk in it. How could I ever set up my workspace?
* I just can’t write this book any faster. (Oops!)
Come on. I know you’ve already thought of your own self-derogatory statements. Write them down now. As you do, you’ll be facing them. Then you can take definite wordy (and worthy) steps to reverse them.
Reframing Our Self-Disparagements
When we reframe with new glue, we jettison old predictions, expectations, stereotypes, entrenched personal habits, family patterns, societal decrees, collective assumed inevitabilities. Choose a few of your self-condemnations and reframe them.
Here’s a start of reframed statements from the list above.
* I can get all the accounting help I need to succeed in business.
* I can make a new habit and enjoy the freshness of the early morning.
* I can take the spare room inch by inch and clear it out.
* I write this book, as long as it takes, with consummate thoughtfulness, care and love.
We have a choice in our thoughts and beliefs. Beliefs are not irrevocable, sacrosanct sets of truths. They are only thoughts we continue to think. Loosen and unbind that knot of thoughts. Pull the knot apart and replace the strands with better thoughts—and you will have better beliefs.
In 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace, Wayne Dyer says this kind of relabeling transforms the beliefs that we’ve stamped as our limitations. We’re not the horrible and unalterable masses of hopeless confusion our negative pronouncements would have us believe. We can fashion immediate and perfect self-perceptions because we are flowing, unfolding, glorious beings with the unlimited capacity to change for the better.
We don’t have to believe any words that we or anyone else pronounces. We have the power of the Word. As we gently unglue our old labels and strip them away, our reframing words (and worlds) become easier to create. Then our words prompt us naturally to the leads, ideas, actions and life we desire.
©2011 by Noelle Sterne, Ph.D. Reprinted with permission.
Published by Unity Books, Unity Village, MO 64065-0001.
Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams
by Noelle Sterne.
About the Author
Noelle Sterne is an author, editor, writing coach, and spiritual counselor. She publishes writing craft articles, spiritual pieces, essays, and fiction in print, online periodicals, and blog sites. Her book Trust Your Life contains examples from her academic editorial practice, writing, and other aspects of life to help readers release regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. Her book for doctoral candidates has a forthright spiritual component and deals with often overlooked or ignored but crucial aspects that can seriously prolong their agony: Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping With the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles (September 2015). Excerpts from this book continue to be published in academic magazines and blogs. Visit Noelle's website: www.trustyourlifenow.com