Sunday, September 16, 2012

Words: Absolutely for the Wise


Find them, you can use them

Say them, you can hear them

Write them, you can read them

Love them, fear them"

Remember that old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"? Of course you do. What a controversial thing! In elementary school, they began telling us that this little bit of sing-songish wisdom was very false. Sticks and stones could indeed break our bones, but words were even worse. And everyone ought to watch their words so as not to hurt others' feelings. But then we grew older... and we joined sports teams, dance companies, art classes, music lessons, academic competitions; and they told us to practice more, give 110%, run faster, try harder, STUDY HARDER, BE PERFECT! Am I wrong? They pushed us to our limits, frequently with what may qualify as verbal abuse. But you couldn't break down and cry simply because people used hard words with you--they told us to "suck it up" and carry on! (Just for the track record, society has changed its mind twice now.) And then. Somewhere down the line it changed again as we grew more savvy with our adult minds; and we acquired these powerful methods of using words to console or curse, soothe or seduce, boast or belittle. Words. Little buggers. Which is it? Treat them with careful respect or don't stress it?

Well. Yes, the answer is "both". But it's not just because words themselves are so volatile. It's because of one of the greatest principles ever created: situationalism. (As far as I'm aware, I just made up this word.) It depends on the situation. People who are being lazy, ungrateful, and pity-partying need to hear words like, "Get up! Get moving! Work hard!" People who are running themselves ragged do not need to hear these words--they need words that say, "Calm down. Take your time. Stop trying to do so much." Even their punctuation-needs are different! "Calm down! Take your time! Stop trying so hard!!" has enough exclamation marks to incapacitate some overly-stressed individuals. It's interesting though, isn't it? It's not a matter of true vs. untrue. It's a matter of time, place, and person. Don't tell your hard-headed teenager to "loosen up, see what you feel like, try different things" when they are surrounded by friends with cocaine; please do give those exact words, however, to the straight-laced child who doesn't do anything but homework. What an obvious concept, right? If only it wasn't so tricky.

When we are dealing with ourselves, especially, it takes good wisdom to apply advice situationally. Extremes are easy to counsel. It's the moderate decisions that are hard. Every example above is fairly extreme, and therefore obvious. But when I am trying to live a balanced life, and I can't decide whether to get up and work out or not for the 4th day in a row, it's not as simple. I could easily say, "Sure. It's ok to take a break." I could just as easily apply pressure and decide, "No, I gotta keep up consistency." Maybe not as critical as, "Should I read my scriptures every night without fail? Or is it not a big deal if I miss it here or there?" Encourage a friend to do the hard thing that's right, or do her heartbreaking struggles elicit her to take some slack? There is no singular bit of counsel that will hold true for her, me, you, and your neighbor's friend all at the same time because we are all different people in different situations. Unless... you employ absolute truths.

I could leave all of this with the phrase, "Use wisdom when deciding things"; but not only is that a dumb, very obvious bottom line, it doesn't reach the bottom. The difference between hard and fast rules (absolute truth) and advice-that-requires-wisdom-for-differing-situations is that absolute truths work for all times, all places, and all people. (Feel free to insert "any" instead of "all".) Totally encompassing of every possible situation. Advice and situational wisdom is beautiful when well-applied, and selecting the right words/actions is rooted in absolute truth. The reason that you must be firm with a knuckle-headed teenager wanting to experiment with dangerous substances is because you love them. Love is absolute. If you haven't discovered that yet, you need a refresher in fairy tales and music in general. Acting out of love will never be wrong (not "hard", not "disappointing"), so it will always be right and always reap the b e s t good. When we don't know what to do or need to decide for the situation, start at the roots. What is unchanging? What is real? What will be true or right forever? Here's some ideas: our Heavenly Father. Love. Courage. Real beauty. Joy. Find absolute truth--it brings utter peace to your mind and your heart, together. And from there, make an intelligent decision. For your time, your place, your person.

No comments:

Post a Comment