The Sanctity of Speech
For most of my career I’ve addressed the inner narrator, otherwise referred to as our “inner voice,” which is very much like an inner megaphone that speaks to us 24/7, oftentimes on repeat and often with a very critical tone.
To date, much of my career has been driven by science, psychology, Buddhism, and other wisdom teachings. More recently, however, I have decided to return to my Jewish roots and study the Torah & Kabballah in greater depth in order to build an even greater “wellness” foundation.
Words can either Build or Destroy
This past week I attended a class entitled, “The Kabballah of Words,” which not only opened my eyes to the sanctity of speech, but also inspired me to think more about our “outer” or spoken voice. I found myself in a place of deep introspection, contemplating the relationship between our two voices.
As important as our thoughts are, what seems almost more important is what we do with them. How do we show up, given our thoughts and our feelings?
We’ve all likely experienced the impact of the spoken word, both good and bad. We’ve seen how words can uplift us as well as belittle us. King Solomon reinforced this when he wrote, “Life and death are in the hands of the tongue.” Words can either build or destroy; they can strengthen and empower—or abuse and disempower.
Taste Your Own Words
While my mission as a coach is to calm and quiet the anxious, overthinking mind, my bigger vision is to help restore the sacred family unit by teaching conscious communication and mindful parenting. One of my mottos is that a trained mind can quiet an overthinking mind.
Clearly, a trained mind can manage self-talk and therefore help to quiet and calm an overthinking mind. But my new question is whether a trained mind with a calmer, inner voice automatically translates into a calmer, outer voice?
Although many of us aspire to become “mind scholars” by training our mind on a daily basis, we can still feel peaceful and calm in one moment and then easily triggered into blind reactivity and unkind speech in the next! This is especially true when we feel that we are being attacked on a personal level.
We are even more vulnerable to blind reactivity when we are hurting and suffering, either physically or emotionally. When we are in pain or feeling emotionally charged, for example fearful, anxious or upset, we subconsciously give ourselves permission to care far less about our choice of words, becoming rude and much less dignified.
It is in these very instances where we oftentimes react impulsively or instinctively—without thought. We have a tendency to get defensive and attack back using degrading and hurtful speech. We may forget to taste our words before spewing them out at others. Are we justified by continuing to make excuses for such behavior?
Both the Inner AND Outer Voice Need to be Trained
To become a “mind scholar” we need to become more mindful of inner thoughts and feelings as well as outer speech, as together these fuel the actions that we take and generate the consequences and results of our life.
Successful mind training is therefore a combination of healthy inner-talk and outer speech—a reliable inner narrator that can translate thoughts into clean conversation and healthy communication.
The same way that the inner voice tends to default to negative thinking, the outer voice can readily default to blind reactivity and foul, inappropriate language.
Think about this: If you could record the voice within your head and were asked to share it with others, would you? Similarly, if you could record the ongoing dialogue within your home—including all the yelling and bad language—and were asked to share it with the world, would you?
If you are being completely honest with yourself, you would probably answer, “No way!” to both of these questions. Most of us don’t have the necessary training to change those inherent defaults. As well, most of us don’t realize just how much energy and power words have—both written and spoken.
The Rebbe (z”l), the wise leader of the Chassidic Movement, agreed that every word has an inherent energy. For this reason, he always made the conscious choice to replace words having a negative connotation with ones having a positive one. For example, he chose to use the words due date instead of deadline, the phrase house of healing instead of house of the sick, and the words not good instead of bad.
The Rebbe’s search for non-negative language was in fact extraordinary, as referenced in Joseph Telushkin’s book, The Rebbe. He strongly believed that labeling people with a single word such as retarded, crippled, or disabled, was far too constricting and inaccurate. Once again, he chose exceptional over disabled and special over retarded. Telushkin writes, “In those days, no one would have thought to refer to a child with lowered capabilities in some areas as a child with special needs.” The Rebbe well understood the power and energy of words and incorporated this into all of his teachings and interactions—he lived this daily throughout his entire life!
Returning to my earlier question, does a trained mind with a calmer, inner voice automatically translate into a calmer, outer voice? Clearly, this is not always the case. But being that self-compassion is one of the pillars of well-being, building a habit of “kindness to self” through compassionate self-talk cannot help but ripple into other important areas, especially speech.
It is our responsibility to choose healthier thoughts and narratives as well as choose speech that is more refined, kind, and respectful. If we commit to this inner work on a daily basis, we cannot help but reap the benefits. Not only will we feel better about ourselves and the way we are treating others, we will also feel better equipped to make more positive, conscious decisions and fewer negative, reactive ones.
Consider observing both your inner and outer voice as well as the relationship between the two. Become a conscious witness who is curious and not judgmental. Notice your patterns and see if and where change is required—and then seek out the necessary trainings.
I also encourage you to remember the Rebbe’s deep desire to sanctify speech by choosing positive words. As Telushkin describes, “He did not wish to have negative words or words that had negative associations cross his lips.”
Let us, too, taste our words first before using them.
P.S. To learn more, contact me to register for my Mind Scholars™ Coaching Program
Visit the events page of my website (www.newlife-chapterone.com) to look into my workshops and Mind Scholars™ Coaching Programs where I teach and coach on all of these trainings. Why not resolve to making this a commitment today? No need to wait for New Year’s 2020. (Remember, hindsight is 20-20 vision. You have the foresight now—so go ahead and sign up today!)