Words Count – The ones we think and the ones we say

If you read my blog, you will notice one of the main things I continue to focus my time and energy on is word choice. Word choice is the largest contributor to my continued growth and success as a human being.

I recently bought one of those clicking handheld counters. I did this so I could hold myself accountable for any and all negative words I used towards another human. So, for everything I thought or said that was negative, I gave myself a click. I was averaging about 15 per day (but I have been working on this for a long time already).

Did I call someone an idiot for cutting me off in traffic? Did I call a politician a name? Was I judgmental towards someone? This exercise did a few things for me, one of which caught me off guard.

I guess a current buzz word is micro-aggression. That’s what most of the negative words I used were. Small acts of violence. As a pacifist, this did not sit well with me. I believe that words can be a form of violence. Think of the emotional abuse and criticism between spouses, or from parents to children. When spoken or shouted, these words absolutely leave scars and cause damage. If I am calling people idiots or assholes under my breath, the words are still violent, but by keeping them internal, I am mostly causing damage to myself. Dozens of times a day I would do this to myself, and it would come out in little ways. A short temper. Resistance to change or new ideas. Just a general unhappiness with the world.

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” ― Gautama Buddha

After this epiphany, I realized that I began having fewer negative thoughts directed at others. I started to feel more compassion towards and individuate those I would normally have a few choice words for. This was awesome, and exactly what I was going for. The one change that has surprised me most occurs when I am driving. I drive a lot – 40K to 50K miles per year. I started working on my reactions to other drivers about a year ago, and it has gotten better. But when I combined that with this new exercise, the magic happened. Now, when someone is driving in what I feel is an unsafe or reckless manner, I become calm and centered and sincerely wish them safe travels. I remind them that driving is a team sport, and I hope they find some inner peace and realize the danger in how they are driving.

For me, this ties back to not using “lazy” words like hate. I have learned to be more verbose. Verbosity adds meaning.

This exercise has brought me calmness and clarity.

Ask questions.

Doug

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