I spent a major part of one day last week in a meeting where there was a good bit of blame tossing going on. In reality the problems that surrounded the design and construction of the building under discussion had many sources. The architects wanted to blame the contractors. The contractors claimed it was an architect driven problem. When that didn’t work out they turned on the owner and on and on it went. I was a neutral third party and could see the blame ball being batted back and forth even though the subject under discussion had resulted from the complexity of the issue and everyone in the room needed to be involved in the solution instead of arguing irresolvable questions of fault.
Some words were heated. Many of the words were poorly chosen and completely unproductive.
I have read in Taoist writings that in ancient times people so revered words on paper that they tried never to throw the paper away. When they could no longer write on a piece of paper, they would very carefully gather it up and burned it reverently, so that the words in the paper would be recycled into the great process of life. That was the great respect that the ancient Taoist had for words.
Before the ancient sages spoke they paused to carefully consider what they were about to say. During speaking they often paused again for more contemplation. For them, the words they spoke were sacred. Their words represented their depth of wisdom and knowledge. Their words and the thoughts expressed by the words were not to be devalued by gossip or thoughtlessness.
The writer of Toltec philosophy Don Miguel Ruiz teaches that we should use our speech in a similar method. He speaks against gossip and ‘black language’ cautioning us about the power of our words.
Reflecting on this past meeting I could not help but think about these things. Words used to hurt or blame, when they could have been used to problem solve instead. Words used in fear of the judgment of others; judgment that surely was being thrown around willfully.
Here is what I think I re-learned. I say re-learned because all of us inherently know these things in the beginning. Our fear of judgment by others springs us into the inappropriate use of the power of our words. Other things might do this as well; but the cause will always have fear at its base.
The logical conclusion might be that if we strive to drop our judgment, simultaneously learning to not fear the judgment of others, then perhaps we become able to once again elevate our words to their appropriate sacredness?