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Wed, Jan. 29

Column: You are your words (video)

You are your words.

I saw that on a bumper sticker and it’s an important idea.

Most of the words we say in a typical day are probably just practical, the things we need to say to carry out work and such. Beyond that, what are your words? When your words are about others, are they kind? Or are they cutting and hateful? Are your words self-centered? Are they all about you, what you are, what you want? Or do you draw out the words of others? Whatever our words are, that’s what we are.

I looked for the source of the phrase but I found no clear origin. That surprised me because I thought for sure it would have origin in the sayings of some spiritualist. I did find that it was a marketing phrase for the American Heritage Dictionary. A marketing phrase which they dropped. I’m sure the phrase has been uttered by many over time, but apparently not in ways recorded in history. Too bad the origin wasn’t more profound but the meaning is.

Are your words positive? Do you note with appreciation the good things around you? Or do you focus more on whatever’s wrong and complain? When you disagree with someone, are your words about that angry and hateful? Or simply acknowledging the disagreement? Do you assume they must be horrible people? Or do your words indicate a curiosity about how they came to be in error? Will you settle for nothing less than them being out of the way, whatever that means? Or are you looking for ways to compromise and work with them; for ways for people with different views to live in this world despite differences?

Words are more than what comes out of our mouths. Our body language is a form of words. Our attitude is. More importantly, the words and thoughts that roll around in our head all day are our words.

The words that we invite in are also our words. What do you listen to? What do you read? Who do you seek out to talk to? Those words often later become what rolls around in our heads, and come out of our mouths, so what we invite in is important.

This is an ancient tradition, the idea of carefully considering what we think and what we say. Some modern spiritualists of various religions practice it, but also going back to Christian monks of many centuries past, and back long before them in various religions. There are practices of simply being mindful of our thoughts. Then there are routines to focus our thoughts, like having some religious phrase to repeat endlessly in your mind when you’re not otherwise engaged, so as to keep the mind from wandering to negative things.

There are many ways this has been practiced throughout humanity’s time, especially by the most devout. It is not something that seems to have much place in modern culture.

It is somewhat similar to some of the self-help ideas about thinking positive thoughts all of the time or envisioning your goals, but those have a difference. Those are about you; about improving your life.

While care of your thoughts and words could be done just to curry favor with whatever god or spiritual understanding you have, I expect that most people who practice this have the best of motivations, which makes it not about you. It’s about you only indirectly. It’s about you being a responsible human on this planet. It’s about the affect you have on others and on the world around you. It’s about others, not you.

In these tradtions it’s not just a practice, it’s also a measure. Those who are concientous about their own words can’t help but notice those of others. Even if you have to be harsh in your job, like a drill sergeant, how you go about that, what else you say, the sum total of your words and interactions, are going to say who you are.

Whatever all of that amounts to in each of our cases, the things we say, our attitude toward those we disagree with, what echos in our heads, those are our words. Whatever is the nature of all of that, that is us. That is who we are. What kind of words do you have? Considering that you are your words, who are you?

Tom Cantlon is a local business owner and writer and can be reached at comments at

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