Your Words: A More Elegant Weapon

Written by Roz Johnson, reprinted with permission. Originally published on “Strength and Determination”

Depending on where you go in the Jedi community, there is much talk of martial arts. If we take the fiction as our starting point, it goes without saying that those we emulate were competent in various forms of martial arts designed specifically for them ( forms I-VII). While we emulate the Jedi, and the practice of martial arts is certainly not without merit, it occurs to me that the application of the physical portions of martial arts can only occur in a narrow space (you or someone in your vicinity is in danger and you have exhausted all other options).

The same is not true of communication. The need for that has become more evident given the state of affairs.. But this is much broader than mediation between two or more parties. As it is broader, so it requires more considerations and a greater refining of skills. Before we can begin to talk about communication and improving our skills with it, we need to look at its purpose.

 Human beings are social creatures and our success and survival depends on how well we employ the skill of communication. Each time we communicate, we can strengthen, weaken, or sever the connection between ourselves and another, or several others. In other words, we create, strengthen, weaken or destroy relationships. Not only this, but the way we communicate can also strengthen, weaken, or destroy other people. The old adage “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is not only wrong, but can create the sort of deep, dark and dank spaces in our mind and spirit which, though they still affect our self concept and our actions, are buried too deep or too frightening to shine a light on.

As Jedi, we certainly want to assist others in their journey to deal with some of the deep, dark places, but just as importantly, we don’t want to be the cause of their (continued) pain. Here are some things to consider in your communication with others:

Your words have power and weight.

This is true for everyone in the world, but not everyone is aware of it. I am telling you so that you are aware and without excuse. As a Jedi, your words must be measured against the potential impact of their weight and power. This requires awareness, self-discipline, a willingness to be corrected, and years of honing.

People respond to the words used around them, about them, and directed to them.

Like the thrust of a light saber, so our words are. They inspire action, reaction or inaction. When we use our words to build up others we build them up. When we use our words to tear down others, they are torn down. Its simple. If we want to inspire an action, a perception, a thought or a change, we need only to speak with that intent in mind.  Sometimes, though, we may not be aware of the effect of our words, but that does not diminish it.  We are creating the world in which we exist and the relationships we enjoy or do not, first by our words. Other people are doing this as well and their words and yours are affecting you in ways you may or may not be aware of. Spend time meditating in order to make yourself aware of the ways words affect you.  Consider your mental or emotional reactions to certain words. What images, thoughts, or feelings do they bring up for you? Spending time considering these can help prepare you for the next consideration.

If someone says “Your words hurt me” you don’t get to decide that they didn’t

The idea that we ought to “grow up”, “get a thicker skin”, “not take things so personal” or “not get so easily offended” can cause us to hide emotional wounds for years because we feel our experience is being belittled. But phrases like this don’t solve the situation and are a direct result of individuals trying to save face. The world uses those phrases. We are, by our training, set a part from the world in the way that we interact with it.  Our typical response may be to justify what we have said, but our attempts at justification prevent communication and don’t deal with the wound.As Jedi, when we hurt another with our words, our first response should be an effort at restoration, beginning with an apology.

Putting it into Practice
Spend time this week completing the following meditative exercise: During meditation consider what words for you have powerful associations. You may even write them down, but sit with them for a while. Let yourself experience whatever those words bring up. Spending time doing this will allow you to develop empathy which will aid in communication. To exercise empathy we don’t need to have had the same experience. We only need to be prepared to have similar feelings. So allow yourself to feel the fear, to feel the joy, to feel the anger, or the sadness. Knowing yourself aids in communication with others

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