My distress about the irresponsible use of words by media led me to explore what the ancients say about the power of words to influence our world. What obligations do we have as writers in bringing peace and unity to the world through our work?
“Goodness in words means being trustworthy,” wrote Lao-tzu. And, “Be tactful and you remain whole.”
“A long and pointless discourse itself declares to all the speaker’s lack of worth.” And “Do not call him a man who enjoys displaying his own empty words.” These both come from the Hindu text, the Thirukural.
“Think before speaking. Once you make your statement, you are obligated to fulfill your words as though under oath,” from Judaism, Pele Yoetz
From Zoroastrinism: “The best life will be for one who with his tongue speaks [and writes] in accord with good thoughts and with his hands performs the tasks of divine wisdom.”
The Sikh’s hold that “to speak [and write] softly, sweetly and tell the truth,” are among their guiding precepts. (From the Sikh Rehat Muryada)
From the Torah, “Do not gossip. (Lashon Hara) Gossip, is so evil that it is compared to idolatry, adultery and murder.” – Arakhin
And finally, “Hear and understand: not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this deflies man… What comes out of the mouth [or the pen] proceeds from the heart, and this defiles man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile man.” – Matthews 15:19-20
Why is this important? World peace begins with inner peace. Inner peace begins with a silencing of the mind and use of the mind’s main tool – words – with wisdom and parsimony. Words in today’s culture have been devalued. They are used lightly and without paying real attention to the pollution they contribute in the form of confusion and division. Like toxic waste, they fill up the airwaves, the Internet and the papers, but what positive, constructive contribution do they make to making the world a better place and providing solutions?
This is my challenge to all of you writers and anyone who utters a word: will you use words carefully and with clarity? Will you choose to use words to sow peace and understanding or will you create division and more problems? As writers we have great influence on the world. We can make a difference for the better – or for the worse. It’s up to us.
Copyright: Debra Moffitt 2008