How Words Can Make You Rich

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw

It’s amazing to me that if I put a thought into words, write those words on piece of paper or type them into my computer and send them to you, if you read them, you are forever changed, at least in some small way.

I picture words as vessels, like little clay pots into which we can insert meaning and emotion. For some reason I think of these word-vessels as grey with tiny lids, shaped like almonds or footballs or genie lamps. We send these vessels to others who receive not only the meaning they contain, but also the energy we put into them.

It’s not uncommon that the recipient of the word-vessel adds his own meaning as well. It’s as though the recipient uses dirty or contaminated hands to remove the meaning and energy from the vessels we send. For this reason we can never really be certain that what we intended to send was what was truly received.

Our messages are also diminished by noise both literal and figurative. Communication’s simple process of “encode, transmit, decode” isn’t really all that simple after all.

And although the process of using words to communicate is fraught with challenges, it has its benefits as well. When we exchange words and ideas with others, we almost always become richer in the process. Unlike the transaction of goods— if I give you a dollar and you give me a dollar’s worth of goods, although we may both now have something of value that we didn’t have before— neither one of us is really any richer.

But if I give you an idea and you give me an idea, we’re both richer and neither one of us had to lose anything for this to happen. We’ve grown wealthier by sharing what we have. I’m convinced that that’s the way the universe always works, even if it’s not always evident.

What this means for communication is that the more love and generosity we can stuff into the word-vessels we send to others, the more we’ll receive in return, and the richer we will be. Just be sure to wash your hands.


Congratulations, You Can Speak – Now What?

“Words are weapons. They blast big bloody holes in the world. And words are bricks. Say something out loud and it starts turning solid. Say it loud enough and it becomes a wall you can’t get through.” ―Richard Kadrey

As late as the 16th century it was commonly believed that an Angelic language existed. Supposedly, God used this Angelic language to create the world and to name all things in existence. It was the same language that Adam used in Eden to speak with God and angels.

As the story goes, the Angelic language was lost after Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden. It wasn’t until many generations later that the Angelic language was restored to Earth when the patriarch Enoch was allowed to record it in a book. Very inconveniently, this book was lost in Noah’s Great Flood. 

I can’t help thinking that hope for us humans to communicate perfectly with each other disappeared with that book. Most days it seems that all we have is our feeble intellect and our imperfect language to make sense of existence and to relate with one another.

Professor Leonard Rubenstein knows this: “Language does not describe the world we see: We see the world language describes.”

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Scriptures contain many stories regarding the power of words. The first chapter and verse in John tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

I’m not sure what that means exactly— the Word was God— but it sounds significant, and it points to the reality that words have tremendous power.  

It aligns with a Hindu teaching that each word contains power to create, sustain or destroy.

As children in Sunday school we’re taught many other examples of the power of words— Jesus commanding the blind to see, the lame to walk and the dead to rise. The account of Jesus commanding stormy seas to calm, or sending demons from a man possessed into a herd of swine.

But very often we forget the power and value of words. We would do well to practice Gandhi’s direction, “Speak only if it improves upon the silence.”

Jewish mysticism teaches that our souls have three garments— thought, language and action— and that God has given us the faculty of language specifically in order to put our thoughts into words and to then use those words to serve and uplift others. 

Think for a moment about how amazing that is— that’s why we have words— to carry our thoughts to bless and assist other people.    

Author Molly Friedenfeld tells us, “There is great power in our words, because they are thoughts to which we have given additional energy by speaking them aloud so another person can know them.”

May we recognize the power and potential of words and always strive to use them to improve our own lives and the lives of others.