The weight of words

What is a word? A carrier of meaning.

Why do we forget that when we utter senseless, mindless, thoughtless remarks, not fully realizing their weight and the meaning behind them? How many times in a day haven’t we uttered something and immediately after wished we’d thought it through, forgetting that the words once spoken can never be taken back. No matter how many sincere apologies or feelings of regret ensue. Words can uplift us, elate our spirits and bring us joy. And the same words can bring us down, deflate our joy and weigh down on us like an imposition unwanted.

Words can make or break any relationship, whether new and tender or old and weathered. What we never realise is that words are all we have, and we must use them wisely or not at all.  For saying nothing at all and spoiling it is a thousand times better than saying something and wishing you hadn’t, spoiling it all the same. But the silence can be crippling too. At times it leaves you wondering to no end whether you did the right thing by choosing to remain silent, whether that was you showing your solidarity or standing your ground. Then you wonder whether you proved to be a coward, not willing to stand up for yourself or another person, or were afraid to speak your mind. Words abandon us at the best of times and the silence will seem golden when it was words you really needed. And at the same times words befriend us at the worst of times and the silence is like that helium-filled balloon you wish you hadn’t let go of, and now it’s floating away, out of grasp.

Words chosen and the silence chosen will always have their own implications. There are some who will choose to dissect and analyse every situation after it has occured. ‘What did he mean by that?’  ‘Why did he say that while looking at me?’ ‘Why did she go red in the face when I mentioned that?’ ‘Is it too late to try and explain what I meant by that?’ ‘I think she misunderstood what I meant by that.’ They will also want to analyse the silence. ‘Why did he look at the floor and not say anything in my defense?’ ‘Why did I just stand there, a thousand thoughts running through my head but not a single word sprang to mind when I had a chance to speak?’ ‘With that silence, did he choose not to get involved?’

Words can make a deeper scar than any silence can heal. One word, uttered foolishly, can leave behind a world of pain. That inner turmoil that ensues can only be imagined by those not affected by it. This is no hard feat to imagine as, at some point or the other, we have all felt that prick in our hearts when we hear words we wish never existed. Secrets are shared everyday, some in confidence and some carelessly sung in the wind for all to learn. Divulging secrets can break even the strongest of trusts in people, such that they learn never to trust anyone but themselves. That is the power of words. Even stronger than the spoken word is the written word. Once it’s out there there’s no bringing it back, no erasing it, no forgetting its existence.

Words and speech are the only form of communication that can leave us dealing with so many emotions at once. They give us hope, fill us with excitement. They also fill us with regret, leave us broken, confused, hurt, bitter, angry, afraid. Words will always come back to haunt us, choose them wisely.

And sometimes, if all you have is old words, all you can do is put them together and hope they say something new.

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3 responses to “The weight of words

  1. Words and speech? What about sign language? 🙂

    I agree with your point, though there are enough people out there too who will not either take offense or care about the words that are said to them; either that, or they only value the words of certain people. The impact of conversations will vary from person to person; some will take it lightly and forget it soon, others will mull it over for weeks (I regret to say I’m the latter type, wish I was more the former!)

    But you’re right; language is very powerful; it shapes cultures and dictates interaction. I suppose it’s not surprising that linguistics is a popular area of study.

  2. Thank you for reading and for your comment! Hope you will continue to enjoy and contribute.

    Aah, but is sign language also not a form of speech?? 😛

    Yes, the significance of conversation, its extent and reasons why is another piece I may be interested in writing. This one was very general about the weight of words and silence. Perhaps the impact one has on another with their words will be portrayed as a short story, or poem or something. 😀

  3. I always thought – and my dictionary just confirmed for me – that speech pertains to oral communication. 😉 I

    Definitely go for writing more on a topic if it interests you! It’s been something I’ve wanted to do with my blog for ages.. write a whole series of posts on a single topic… how cool!

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