Words are just words unless YOU give them meaning.
Faith, fuck, family, love, happy, marriage, bad, shit, honesty, right, good, truth, hell, belief, lie, dream, kind, relationship, passion, father, ambition, mother, friend… grass, sky, school, finger, rain, job… you get the picture. They’re all just words. (Say “grass” aloud 20 times and TELL me that word isn’t random af!:)
Until you assign a meaning and believe in that meaning, adopting what that word will stand for and hold value to, it is meaningless.
I first started thinking about this idea when I began to realize my idea of “marriage” was dying an excruciatingly slow, painful, inevitable death. I’d say, “Marriage. It’s really not all it’s cracked up to be.”
I became so frustrated, feeling everyone who sang praises of being married had LIED to me and I had bought into the lie and ruined my prime years (twenties) and probably my children because of it!
Eventually, as I usually do, I began to see my responsibility in living the definition of marriage that I chose to be a part of and it wasn’t pretty. I adopted the idea that I would be submissive to my husband and try my damnedest to learn how to be gentle and… quiet. (In case it isn’t obvious, my influences were the church and the patriarchal system.)
None of this went well for me, as I am the actual opposite of those things. I consider myself to be a wild woman meaning I have always roamed with spiritual beings in wide open spaces as a free bird, changing directions and a lot of other things on a dime and in my own time. But I am also deeply connected to myself and others, nurturing authenticity, drawing out the heart and holding it safely as it speaks to me and I speak back to it. There is a lot of tenderness and peace in who I am, but I prefer to not be corralled or limited to only one way of relating, being, or personifying the rushing waters of my soul.
So, “marriage” became almost meaningless to me because I began to see all around me that what I thought it meant, it didn’t actually mean at all. People were having affairs, becoming drug addicts, quitting their jobs and leaving their families, sleeping in separate bedrooms, and asking their spouses for “permission” to do this or that… it all made me want to puke.
I stopped holding marriage in such high regard. It wasn’t an achievement to me anymore–no matter how long some couples had endured it–because what’s the point of two miserable people continuing to miserably coexist forever and ever until one of them dies? That kind of existence is the opposite of anything I esteem.
Now, I’m not saying marriage is lost. But, as Mark Groves @createthelove says, “Since when is quantity over quality more admirable?”
All of that to say, my questioning of definitions and terms began with “marriage” then moved to “truth”, “reality”, “living”, “worth”, “honesty”, and pretty much hasn’t stopped since. Even cuss words are literally worthless unless you associate offense, passion, cruelty or emotion with them.
I get it, if someone said, “FUCK YOU” it would definitely be intended to puncture, but does that mean it has to?
No matter what the words are, even when they’re “I love you,” I always read the full picture. The actions around them, the tone beneath them, the pain behind them, the hope in front of them. It’s not that I don’t trust people, but you know when someone is trying to manipulate you? HOW do you know? Because you’re reading all around the words. The words becoming meaningless and everything around them become the true message.
This makes the giving of meaning very powerful and the sort of thing that shouldn’t be done so… unconsciously.
When my son says in a fit of rage, “I hate you! You’re the meanest mommy ever,” it hurts my feelings because I give those words meaning when they come out of the mouth of the person I hold dearest in life. Even still, the meaning of those words isn’t SO deep that I become blind to what is happening around the words. Here’s what I see swirling around his firing tongue:
First, his age. Then I pay attention to how he is still learning how big feelings feel and how to let them move through him. Next I remember the times before (usually just hours before) where he softly runs his fingers through my hair and whispers, “I love you, Mommy,” with no prompting and straight from the heart. And lastly, I tune into what he is holding onto in this moment of hurtful word tossing, and that it usually his own… big shocker… hurt.
Ah, cue pivotal parenting moment! I will help him find the original point of pain and address that first, soothingly and with patience, then later when he is in a clamer state, we will circle back around to the hurtful words he threw my way. I will help him understand how they hurt me (and other people) and give him some better options for next time.
And the same goes with good words too. Did you ever date someone (or maybe you did/do this) who lavishly pours out love, intentions, and plans for a future with you and it seems so damn genuine, but then, in time, you discover it was all empty words and promises? Yeah… reading around the words never stops being important.
It’s always going to be OUR job to take inventory of other people’s full frame–not just their words, not only our feelings of attachment/excitement, not fixating on how they seem to meet our needs, and not only taking account for their actions either.
People who deserve to have meaning attached to their words–the people with high integrity–will show you that in the entire frame of who they are, not just pieces or scraps here and there. But that is on YOU to do your due diligence and not allow your wounds and insecurities to overlook the half-assed people in your life. You’ll learn how to do this in your own shadow work.
It’s part of paying attention to your life and living consciously. Learn to do it and you will be well on your way to becoming a relational jedi.
So, what words are hurting you? Fueling you? Filling you? Giving you hope? Piercing your heart? Makin’ you feel all the feels? Or triggering you?
Pay attention to what’s happening around those words. What behaviors support them? What messages are grounded and true about them? Is there any part of your “bullshit radar” going off about them? LISTEN. Get curious. Dig deeper.
Find your truth, then find the truth about the words you’re hearing (and speaking).