Word Choices Matter

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(Lose the Net by Rasmus Faber Courtesy of Epidemic Music)

How amazing it is that good questions lead us so naturally to good answers, and that beautiful questions lead to even better answers! When we open ourselves to the things we don’t know, we’ve opened the doors to discovery and wonder and greater understanding.

I’m Scott Lennox and you’re listening to The Beautiful Question, a consideration of things that matter every day.

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Our choice of words and the ways we use them can be powerful in so many different ways. They can lift us up or tear us down. They can render us lost and stuck or get us moving again. They can inspire hope and possibility and opportunity, or they can cause us to feel absolutely empty and bereft.

Join me this week as we consider the power of words and how we might become more mindful about our choices. Stay with me.

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I’ve spoken in the past about witnessing the combat death of a soldier who thought he’d been injured but didn’t have a mark on him. When the impact of a bullet hit the outer edge of his gear and knocked him to the ground, he panicked and asked another soldier if he was going to die. The response he heard was so thoughtless that the man went into shock and died before I could get to him.

It wasn’t an injury that killed the soldier, but words of hopelessness that led to a fatal idea.

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Allow me to demonstrate how quickly and seamlessly the mind and the body work together, and how the emotions are not far behind. Come along with me as I offer an example I’ve used with individuals and groups for years.


Photo: Scott Lennox


Start by imagining that you’re the kitchen. Take out a lime—a fresh one, place it on the cutting board and roll it under the heel of your hand to loosen up the juices inside it. When I do that, I love to bring my hand to my face and smell the freshness.

Now rotate the lime so that one end is pointing away from you and one end is pointing toward you. Be careful not to cut yourself as you take a sharp knife and cut the lime in half from end to end. Got that? Good. Now, place one of the halves aside and lay the other half flat-side-down on the cutting board. That’s right.

Now, once again taking care not to cut yourself, slice the remaining half of the lime into two pieces from end to end. And now comes the last cut of all. Being just as careful as you were a moment ago, place one of the quarters aside and cut the remaining quarter in half, giving you two equal slices that are an eighth of a lime each.

Now lay the knife down and pick up one of the remaining slices and put it in your mouth, skin and all, and vigorously chew it up. As you do, notice what you’re experiencing. Do you like the taste of it? Is it unpleasant? Is it sour? Is it bitter? Did the glands on each side of your jaw tighten suddenly? Are you salivating?

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As you might imagine, when I’ve taken people through this same exercise over the years, many of them have made a face that tells me they’re feeling uncomfortable. When I ask why, I’m usually told it’s because the lime is sour and that they’re salivating, sometimes swallowing as they say it.

When I ask, “What lime?” they often look puzzled. I go on to explain that there is no lime. There are only words and ideas about a lime. There’s only imagination about the lime.

But the power of the words I’ve chosen and the deliberate way I crafted my description of the experience have caused the unconscious mind of the listener to spring into action. When that happens, people usually salivate to neutralize the citric acid that isn’t actually present. My words and the ideas they spawned set physical changes into place so quickly that the listener is almost powerless to prevent it from happening.

It may seem a simple demonstration, yet it points to something essential about us. Unless we are extremely careful, we react to what we hear, even when it is total fiction. Think of the ways children react to the stories and fables they are told.

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But this week’s consideration isn’t about fiction or fables or children’s stories. It’s about the ways in which the words we use and the words we hear create real experiences in the here and now.

Ask yourself how consciously aware you are of the things you tell yourself on a regular basis and the effect they have on you. Or how consciously aware you are of your reactions to the things you hear or read in the media. Ask how consciously or unconsciously you are reacting to the things your family and friends are saying to you. Or for that matter, how they react or respond to the things you say to them.

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This would be a great week to become more aware of the ways words are affecting you, and the feelings that arise as a result of them. This week’s Beautiful Questions are designed to help you do exactly that. Here are my questions.

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Question One: What words do you have strong reactions to and why do you react in the ways you do?

Question Two: What might you do to minimize or eliminate those reactions and take charge of your own responses?

Question Three: What would it sound like for you to speak more mindfully and intentionally this week?

As you listen more intently and create healthy choices for yourself, write and tell me about them. I’d love to hear what you discover.

As I say each week,
My Light with Your Light!

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I’m happy we can engage this way as we consider things that matter and what to do about them. If nothing else, I hope you feel inspired to look more deeply at ways of caring for yourself.

You can be further inspired by visiting my friends at Kosmos Journal. That’s K O S M O S Journal. Their mission is to inform, inspire, and engage global transformation in harmony with all life. You can easily find them online at Kosmos Journal dot O R G.

And at thebeautifulquestion.com, you can read the illustrated transcript of each podcast as you listen. We’ve also included an archive of all previous podcasts, including guided relaxation audios that can help you practice letting go on a daily basis.

If you find these podcasts useful, I encourage you to share them and tell others about them. That’s a great way of helping me get a voice of calm and collaboration and balance and encouragement out into the world. It’s a great way of spreading peace.

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I’m Scott Lennox, and this has been The Beautiful Question.

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The Beautiful Question is a One Light production, written, produced, and engineered by Scott Lennox at HeartRock Studios in Fort Worth, Texas, as a way of paying forward to life, being fully present, becoming better engaged with things that truly matter in a complex world, and committing to a healthier future for all of us.

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