By Alvin Stenzil
“Words are a treasure. I treasure words.”
I learned to love words at an early age. My parents were teachers and counselors. They understood the power of words. They understood words could heal, or they could kill.
That was more than I could understand at that time. But I could sense the magic that words held.
What I was able to understand was that words . . . any words . . . simple words . . . could hold an unlimited different number of meanings, and therefore, different powers, depending not on who was speaking them, but on who was listening.
What I was able to understand was that it was far too blindly self-serving to imagine that what I “meant” by a collection of words was what they would mean to others. As a result, I learned to hear my words, before they were spoken, in the ears of many, many others.
Certainly, at first, I was limited by my life experiences. I didn’t understand enough “others” to predict the many ways they might “hear” me based on their own lives. Still, I could tell that if, as my words formed in my mind, I could hear them apart from my own meaning, I could often realize that what I meant was unlikely to be heard in that way by their target.
Fortunately, I was blessed with such a quick evaluative capability that it felt I could usually imagine many possible interpretations of what I was about to say, even while the words were forming. I could easily choose to say nothing, and with practice, I found I could use different words in the middle of a sentence than had been planned when the sentence began.
And what benefit have I drawn from such realizations? Well, certainly I offend others less than may have occurred otherwise. But, more to my liking, I believe that I usually choose words that suggest, rather than define. I choose words that lift up, rather than push down. I choose words that, once they leave my lips, are no longer mine, but belong to the listener.
Like the little hanging steel balls that when hit from one side do not even move, but simply impart momentum to those beyond, not only are my words not mine to own, but they are simply meant to offer forward. My only need is to give them good benediction as they pass through me, and as they vanish from my limited, and temporary, human senses.
Alvin Stenzel is a retired CPA living in The Villages, Florida. He spent most of his life working in the DC area and living in suburban Maryland. He is the author of several motivational books, as well as poems and articles for newspapers and magazines. His most recent book is his first novel, The Crystal Pond.
6 thoughts on “Words are a Treasure”
Your “words” really, really, REALLY got me thinking. Writers, especially, have to choose words carefully. A single word often has more than one accurate meaning—that’s bad enough—then add the readers interpretations, and what you wrote and they understood are as different as night and day. In face-to-face communication, the listener has the opportunity to ask what you meant and you can correct or refine. On this, hopefully, all writers can agree: no words should be banned.
So obvious that the author of this lovely essay treasures words. We need more treasured words in our world. Words and phrases like “the power of words” “simple words” “the magic that words hold” “fortunately I was blessed” “simply meant to offer forward” “words belong to the listener.” These treasured words are an insightful and positive antidote for so many challenges we face today. I hear a call to action . . . for free treasures, share this essay with your email list and post it on social media outlets.
What a beautiful piece! Yes, words do have power, and in any situation, it is “how you word it.”
Good article to ponder. You were blessed with good instruction early on.
Written words are one thing but spoken words are another.
One thing you didn’t write was that it’s not only what you say, but how you say it, especially when speaking to a child or someone who is less educated or in a lower socially economic standing than you.
Oh, oh, oh.
You have me thinking back, way back.
At the time of course, I didn’t think too much of it.
That words are hard to take back. Kind of like time.
Care not to say something that cannot be deleted from a memory.
So, so, so
It’s a hard habit to break. I still fail, but not as often. The cost has not been small. It’s been large.
Feelings get hurt. Apologies help sometimes, but the stain remains.
Silence helps on occasion, something I have a hard time with.
Yet, so many times, a word would have made the difference, fixed it, abated, ameliorated. If only I had….
But, but, but
don’t forget the times, there are many, now, as I remember—— when I found the words, the word, the inflection, tone, hint, pause, look—- that made a difference, impacted, changed, averted, calmed, soothed, loved.
Can’t take back, good and not so good.
I will be speaking on The Fruit of The Spirit on March 16th. I am making the point that the words we speak can sow and grow our faith. Words in and of themselves are not magical to me or my magician husband, but they serve as inspiration to the listener!