R ECENTLY, we have been hearing and reading about words uttered by politicians from both sides of the divide — negative remarks that are draining the energy out of all Malaysians.
Politicians and Malaysians who write and utter words must first know the negative impact they have on the country’s peace, unity and stability. What effect could such words have on world peace and unity?
“Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace,” said Buddha. His quote encourages deep thoughts on our daily use of words.
Could a word actually bring about world peace? Was Buddha referring to the intention and genuineness behind words? Do our words impact our relationships with others? I believe the single, resounding word, “yes”, answers all three questions.
Words play a significant role in our daily lives. We use words to talk to each other. We read words in books, on our Kindles or Nooks, on Facebook posts and Twitter feeds, and emails. We see words on restaurant menus, on arrival/departure boards at the airports and on store displays. We can find words everywhere in our daily existence.
The words we use with each other impact our relationships because they let others know who we are and what we believe in.
Words let others know what we think about them, too. When we use kind words with each other and do not fall prey to gossip, idle talk or name-calling, our words can bring us closer to each other by promoting loving and positive connections.
Our words not only impact our relationships with fellow humans, but also affect how nations relate to each other. We have often seen, throughout history, how hurtful words and bitter disagreements start wars and result in the destruction of not only relationships between nations, but human lives.
On a personal level, we all know that negative words can gravely harm those around us and obliterate relationships. But, they can also impact our own spiritual development, as we can surmise from this quote from the Bible:
“But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” — Matthew 12:36.
Spiritual writings also discuss the detrimental effects of idle words:
“He must never seek to exalt himself above anyone, must wash away from the tablet of his heart every trace of pride and vainglory,
must cling unto patience and resignation, observe silence and refrain from idle talk.
“For the tongue is a smoldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison.
“Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul.” — Baha’u’llah.
As these quotes imply, words have power. When used for good and not in excess, they can promote peace and improve our spiritual progress. When used to harm, they can obliterate harmony and unity, and affect our spiritual progress.
Perhaps, we also need to consider what we do not say. Do we need to use words in all of our human interactions? Have you ever talked to someone and experienced the so-called “awkward silence”? Why is silence so difficult for us humans?
If we look at other species — like dogs and cats, for example — we notice that words are not integral to their relationships and bonds.
Aren’t animals endearing that way? They snuggle up to you and seem to enjoy your company without saying anything at all. We feel that they want to be near us, yet, they do not tell us so.
It can still be nice when you say nothing at all.
We can even see the lack of need for words with our own loved ones, as we know that our spouses, parents or siblings love us even when they do not say: “I love you.”
Perhaps then, the poet and theologian, Rumi, was on to something when he wrote: “Silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation.”
World peace could be closer than we realise if we all begin to use words in moderation. We could try to pause and think about the possible impact before updating our Facebook statuses about the detestable food at that restaurant, tweeting about that book we hated or write about that ugly dress someone wore at a wedding.
Let us think about what impact our words could have on someone else.
Spiritual teachings urge people to use kind words, as well as use words in moderation. Sometimes, silence may be the best option.
A kind deed done or a kind word spoken to someone who is having a bad day could make all the difference between them feeling lonely and feeling that they belong.
When people feel that they belong, we start building a strong foundation for peace and unity. Let all Malaysians realise, during Ramadan, the need to change and start afresh for this country that we all call “home”. K.T. Maran, Seremban, Negri Sembilan NST 1 JULY 2014 @ 8:07 AM