A single word can brighten the face
of one who knows the value of words,
Ripened in silence, a single word
acquires a great energy of work.
War is cut short by a word,
and a word heals the wounds,
and there’s a word that changes
poison into butter and honey.
Let a word mature inside yourself.
Withhold the unripened thought.
Come and understand the kind of word
that reduces money and riches to dust.
Know when to speak a word
and when not to speak at all.
A single word turns a universe of hell
into eight paradises.
Follow the Way. Don’t be fooled
by what you already know. Be watchful.
Reflect before you speak.
A foolish mouth can brand your soul
Yunus, say one last thing
about the power of words–
Only the word “I”
divides me from God.
Every major faith tradition warns against the uninhibited use of words. The wise understand that human beings possess a finite amount of energy. To speak is to use that energy, to direct it toward an object with intent. A hurtful word to a friend, a shallow or pointless conversation, an internal dialogue with one’s own egoistic agenda, a curse against the universe….these are all ways language can deprive us of energy otherwise allocated for the accomplishment of Good. Like Yunus, we should hold our words until the right one approaches, the one that “changes poison into butter and honey”.
The magnitude of this challenge is clear in the current global landscape. The rise of technology has not only given us a variety of platforms from which to use our words carelessly and often; it has also opened our psyches and souls to the millions of meaningless words spoken by others. We are encouraged to push the entirety of our lives–our hopes, dreams, desires, and accomplishments–onto others, feeding our habits for constant attention, affection, and desirability. How, then, can we possibly withhold words until they ripen with meaning and compassion?
Counselors are blessed with a professional setting that encourages this process of patience and growth. Words, when they are spoken, must be carefully weighed and measured. They must reflect the professional knowledge of the speaker, but only in relation to the patient’s anguish and concern. They must also contain compassion and understanding. They may even be graced by the light touch of Spirit. Too many words and the power of the message is lost. Too few and the message remains unclear, muddled. May we all learn with Yunus how to “withhold the unripened thought” until the timing is right. It seems a great challenge, but one that also contains an immense blessing in its power to change and improve lives.