The natural world is estimated to contain roughly 8.7 million species (though most have yet to be identified). Interestingly enough, we all share commonalities across our respective DNA.
Did you know we share roughly 60% of our DNA with bananas? Sweet, huh (pun intended).
Did you know we share roughly 98.5% of DNA with chimpanzees? Wild, huh (pun, again, intended).
Though it’s worthwhile to focus on our similarities across our genetic makeup, I find myself reflecting on one component that makes us unique from other species, and that’s our ability to communicate, or lack thereof.
Words have power.
“I love you” can cause a physiological reaction, supporting attachment.
“I hate you” can cause deep despair.
“We’d like to offer you the job” can release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that reinforces ambition and reward.
Though words can’t necessarily change the reality of our worlds, they can change our perception of it.
The Prime Minister of New Zealand refuses to release the name of the shooter from Christchurch, because the words assigned to him would only increase the likelihood of further shootings, research suggests.
Perception and reality are uniquely intertwined, and often confused for each other.
“Get over it” can cause shame, and promote isolation.
“Sergeant (intentionally left blank) committed suicide.” The word ‘commit’ is eerily close to acts of crime or sin such as “committing adultery”, “committing murder”, or “committed sexual abuse”. Where death by suicide is the typically the result of unresolved mental illness.
Being cognizant of the words we use isn’t a new approach, it’s something we have always done. Some of us are taught not to say certain things in the presence of our elders. In the religion I was raised in, one would never say “God” in vein. Upon first meeting someone, we are tactful about our word usage to appear friendly.
But why the struggle to utilize sensitivity towards others?
Our world is SO busy, and I’m a hypocrite when criticizing being “busy”. We don’t constitute multiple sources of information to learn, instead we elect to one source of media that often evokes emotion: one newspaper article, one news station, or one media report. These media influencers operate with such tact to trigger human emotion. So much, in fact, that it creates a bias filter to see the world. If a reputable media introduces a story, the viewer will soak it like a sponge and this will remain in place generally until someone becomes further educated, however this is unlikely to occur because of A) our busy schedules, and B) people, again, generally don’t consult multiple sources.
I think about the words used in many of these media outlets are utilizing that successfully create a bias and evoke emotion:
Bigot, Snowflake, Liberal, Uneducated, Reactive, Weak, Sensitive, Unstable, terrorist, criminals, to name just a few.
I have fallen victim to the bias.
Words are the most powerful force available to our species. They have the power to encourage, or destroy. They have the power to heal, to harm, to humble, or to humiliate.
I can think of the words I’ve heard that have destroyed me, some words I’ll carry for the rest of my life. “God, you’re broken. “How can you live with yourself”. “You’ve ruined my life”. “You’ve abandoned a child”.
I can also think of words I’ve used on others that have absolutely destroyed others. “Who in their right mind would do that”, “I will never forgive you”, etc. Again, these are words I’ll never forget I said.
There have also been words that I hold near and dear to my heart. “You’re an amazing father”, “You’ve saved my life”, “You have such an amazing heart”. These phrases have pushed me to be a better person.
I have the wonderful opportunity to work with people and hear their stories, and often times in our work we discuss the impact of words. We talk about the words they have been called and the words they assign to themselves. The impact and meaning of these words are profound and absolutely drive their function and perception of the world.
Considering the powerful words we hear and utter, we must discipline ourselves to speak in a way that promotes respect, humility, and authenticity. Before we speak, consider the impact they may have? Kind words can inspire, they’re like music to the ears of our fellow humans.
Now take it a step further by speaking to yourself, literally if you have to. We must speak with mindfulness, peace, and compassion to ourselves.
I encourage you to consider your bias, I have it too. I encourage to take off the “hate” sunglasses and view the world from a different lens. I challenge you to learn something new about a person you hadn’t known before. If a popular news agency is barking an opinion at you about a group or person, I challenge you to obtain real knowledge. Get to know someone on a personal level and watch how real knowledge defeats biased knowledge.
I’ll do the same with you.
Thank you to the following for the writing inspiration:
• Surfers Coffee in Wahiawa, HI
• Cole Wilson
• Major news networks