Thursday, June 14, 2012
The Power of the Next Word
Our first and even our second word, don't really say much of anything. They each may suggest an intention or a sentiment, or initiate a dialoge, but until they are followed consistently by our next word--our third word-- they amount to very little. Along the lines of 'actions speak louder than words', our first and second words are just that: words. Our next word, however, is the one that takes action. It is the one with the power to change lives; our own life and the lives of those around us. To understand how, we have to look at 'our lives' in a general sense. Let's use our names to follow this line of thought. Most of us are given a first name, a middle name, and a last name. Our lives follow a first, a middle, and a last, too. Using the analogy of names we can say we have "three names" in our lives. The name we were given at birth, the name we have accepted, and the name we create for ourselves. The one we were given at birth is full of hope and promise. Without blemish. Everyone starts out this way. But as we grow up we 'learn' things about ourselves, some true and some false. We learn we are smart or dumb, or fast or slow, or good at math or bad at it, or shy or loud, or rich or poor, or loved or unloved. We learn these things and we begin to accept these as truth. At first we do this without our own complicity, as subtly as the growing of grass. We accept these things because they help us fit in, unless of course, we learn we don't fit in, which we will accept as well. Later, as we begin to think for ourselves we begin to play a part in shaping our own accepted name. Once we have accepted these "truths" about ourselves, we solidify our roles by acting out what we and those around us believe us to be. This is where we develop habits and trends. Habits that help us. Habits that hurt us. Trends that are more subtle than habits, and lead us into and out of relationships, jobs, trouble and stresses. It is also at this point that we get to choose whether we want to keep our accepted name or not. And for a long time, most of us keep this name. Usually we don't recognize that we've accepted it and when we do, we don't know quite how to shed it or whether we can. We continue doing our thing, playing our role because that's what is expected of us, and, frankly, because it's easier. But mostly because we worry what others will think. Ethel Barret paints this very picture when she says, "We would worry less about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do." So as long as this is true for us, we are stuck with our middle name, the one we have accepted. But there's hope. There is a way out. Birth gives us our first name, and circumstance gives us our middle name. But at some point we realize we have a choice. We realize, as the tattoo of one of my friends proclaims, "I am the hero of this story. I decide how it ends." When we are ready to decide how it ends we are ready to create our last name. We are ready to use the Power of the Next Word. All day long, every day, we are in a position to respond to those around us, to events or circumstances that affect us. When these events take place we can stay safe and use our first two words, expected words, safe words, pat answers. Or we can become a little unsafe, a little afraid and use new words, unexpected words or responses. Actions that make us vulnerable, but actions that promote health, healing, fullness of life. In fact it is VITAL that we respond with the power of the next word if we want to move away from our middle name, the one we have accepted, to our last name, the one we will create. VITAL. Vulnerable. Intentional. Truthful. Always Loving. We must be vulnerable in our thoughts, actions and words if we are to break the habits of our middle name. Habits are those things we repeat, again, and again, and again. Vulnerability means moving away from the comfortable, the repetitious, to the uncomfortable or new. There is no other way to break a habit except to die. We must do something new. We must become vulnerable. Examples of words that place us in a position of vulnerability are, "Thank you", "You are welcome", "I love you", "I am sorry", "I was wrong. Will you forgive me." We could be rejected in any one of these examples. Say them anyway. Be vulnerable. Intentional. Do you remember the bumper sticker, "Practice Random Acts of Kindness"? Great bumper sticker. Lousy idea. Why would we be random about kindness? How much more effective would it be to practice INTENTIONAL acts of kindness. If we randomly practice vulnerability we will not lose our bad habits. In fact, we will retreat to them between random acts and actually reinforce the habits. Be intentional, otherwise we let random rule our lives. "T" is for truthful. We can be vulnerable and intentional, but if our next word is a sham, what's the point? We might as well sink back into our habits. But when we are truthful, our vulnerability is believable and even attractive. It invites others in. This is where we begin to change our life, our last name, as well as help create change in others. We begin to be seen as "T"rustworthy. We are true to ourselves, our habits are beginning to release their grip and we gain support from those around us. Our actions may even free them to let go of some of their old habits. Be truthful in all you do. "A" and "L" go together. We must be Always Loving. Everything we do must be done in love. When we are truthful we must be lovingly truthful to the benefit, not to the detriment, of ourselves and others. Truth can hurt, but loving truth can also heal. Spiteful truth damages. In all we do, we must LOVE. Love seeks truth, fear seeks safety. Fear perpetuates habits. Love promises healing. Love. Always. When we love with vulnerability, with intention, with truth, and when we always do this, we move from our middle name, our accepted name, to our last name, the name we create, the name we touch others with. Our first two words begin the dialog, our Next Word has power to change lives. It is VITAL that we use it.