Sunday, November 1, 2009

Words Are Overrated

As a writer, I love words. I like to play with them, using words as colors and textures upon the blank canvas of a page. I like the weight of words, the way they echo in the mind after they've registered. Words are powerful. Words are irretractable. "Words kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit -- you choose." (Proverbs 18:21, MSG) We need to handle words with care, mindful of their power both to wound and to heal.

And sometimes, we need to shut up and forego them completely.

We've all had them -- those electric moments shared with another human being, where words suddenly seem so glaringly inefficient. Sometimes it's a knowing glance across a crowded room, sometimes it's a tearful embrace inside the viewing room of a funeral home. There are those moments, whatever their setting or circumstance, that are simply better for their silence.

I shared a moment with a friend today, wherein I knew I was part of something bigger than words. It was one of those times where tears spoke volumes and a good tight hug, the kind that lasts a while, was the only appropriate way to truly respond in love.

It seems to me that brokenness begets brokenness. In the face of one who is brave enough to remove her mask and break down in a sincere expression of human fragility, we become aware of our inability to say the right thing. We admit to ourselves that we are not clever, eloquent or wise. Humility comes upon us as we recognize ourselves in that broken person, and we realize that perhaps the best way to love them in that moment is not to mentor them but to meet them, right where they are -- to come alongside them and sit with them in brokenness.

I guess I'm learning. As much as I love words, I admit that they are often overrated. Because today, as I sat with my friend in her brokenness, I found I had no need for them at all.


  1. I have often thought the same thing. I do occasionally second guess what I've written or said, but very rarely what I've meant. Thanks for this, Jena.

  2. I am so crazy about words as well but value more the words left unspoken by those that LOVE me:-)

  3. Jena, this is a beautiful piece. And with your few words, you really did say volumes.
    During my very broken times, the MOST empathetic people, the people who helped the most, were the ones who did exactly what you said. Just came alongside and said nothing at all. No cliche's, no platitudes, just sat and let me be how I needed to be, while knowing ALONE was not what I needed to be! That speaks quite loudly to the broken one.

  4. Well written. I esp like this statement: "It seems to me that brokenness begets brokenness." My wife says, "Hurt people hurt people."

    I also liked your statement that sometimes words are not needed, as when you are just sitting with a friend. How much better friends jobs companions could have been if they'd said nothing!

    You are a good writer.