Words, Words, Words1:30 AM
Hello, I'm Bailey, I'm a word person, and I talk too much.
Did you know some people aren't word people? That they don't share every depressed feeling, happy thought, friend crisis and minute observation? That they literally spend five minutes thinking through exactly how to put things? That they can say, straight-faced and without a struggle, "I can't tell you right now"?
I thought that impossible until I befriended some non-word people myself. I like them. They actually listen. And when they say something, you know it's the product of serious thought. That makes me actually listen.
It got me thinking about what talking does -- what words do. They capture moments. They pull your thoughts together and stuff them into a limited word. They define people, doctrines, lives and lessons. They string up telephone lines between souls, to communicate the incommunicable.
That's why non-word people find them scary and why word people ought to find them scary. When I blab on and on, I am making things more real and understandable to me. I am putting things into my ball court and dribbling them around like I own them.
Words are titles of ownership. They make things my business.
Any time I start feeling petty or stupid or crabby, it's because my conversation is petty or stupid or crabby. When I complain, I pull together all these vague thoughts and feelings about negative things and stuff them into concrete words. Now I clearly see what bothers me. When somebody asks, "How are you?" or opens up the floor for me to speak about whatever, I reach for the things easiest to understand -- those thoughts and feelings already packaged in words. That's why I complain all the time.
It works for positive things too, of course. It becomes easier and easier to share the Gospel off the cuff or tell my testimony on the fly when I've already told it several times before. The words make it more real. The words make the ideas more accessible.
Lately, my non-word friends have challenged me to watch my tongue. What do I talk about? What does it say about me? Must I talk as much as I do?
I'm thinking not. I come up with all sorts of excuses: "I must insert my opinion here or else she'll never, ever get a chance to hear the truth!" or "I must tell him the answer because what if he doesn't listen to God's leading?" or "I must tell Susie's business to Betty because how else will Betty be able to help up Susie?" or "I must share every detail of my feelings or nobody will understand where I'm coming from!" or "I must tell everybody my personal business or else they'll think I have something to hide!" Baloney. Balderdash.
I think of all the stuff I talk about that does not matter. Why do I feel compelled to talk about things that I'm not quite sure are true? Why do I complain about things that won't change -- the whole "Gosh, I hate winter" when the forecast just predicted five more inches of snow? Why do I ask about things neither I nor the other person care about? Why must I philosophize about how confusing I am and what I feel about something, even though I'm not 100% positive I feel that way to begin with? Why do I talk about myself?
I think of all the stuff I could talk about that do matter -- like other people and Jesus and thankfulness. "Vivian, thank you for texting me last night to make sure I didn't break a leg in a ditch on the way back to Olds." "Claire Bear, I look forward to your beautiful smile every morning." "Erich, I appreciate how you crash my pity parties." "Guys, did I tell you about how God totally turned my day around?" "Did you know that [insert Bible passage] relates to [random Hillsdale textbook]?" "How can I pray for you?" "What's God doing in your life?"
Joy, gratitude, kindness, goodness and Jesus Christ Himself becomes immediately more accessible the more I talk about them, the more words like "thank you" and "praise God!" and "so blessed" become part of my daily vocabulary instead of "tired," "I hate it when" and "I feel."
What about when I am tired or hate it when or feel? My non-word friends taught me that talking often prolongs the problem. The best advice I ever got while freaking out over something was, "Bailey, go to bed." At another freak-out moment my friend sat me down with pink crayons and paper and told me to color. I drew a Stress Squid and felt perfectly fine. Hugs, back rubs, laughing, sing-a-longs, puddle jumping and counting my blessings often deflate stressful situations. Talking is no good when I'm exhausted or stressed out: it just makes little things bigger. Talking only does me good when there is a concrete problem in need of a concrete solution.
Even with joy -- sometimes words don't cut it. That's when sparkling eyes, jumping up and down, big hugs and running around the student union mean more than trying to explain exactly what's bubbling up inside.
James wasn't kidding when he said "quick to hear, slow to speak." This wordy girl takes the hint. I'm listening.