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Words Carry Meaning

Each of us come with fears, insecurities, and past pain. With the power of memory, we often carry our prior experiences into each moment and every engagement we have. There’s a quote I love from Don Miguel Ruiz, “We don’t hear what people say, we imagine what they mean.”

Our brains are naturally meaning-making machines. We make meaning out of everything said and unsaid, filtered through the lens of our perception and experiences. Most often when someone is reacting in the moment with anger, fear or defensiveness…it’s less about the present circumstances and more about the past. I liken this to an old wound being scratched open.

When we engage in community, the folks around us can often represent experiences from our past (both pleasant and unpleasant), and we project onto them who they may mirror in our lives. In instances where we may feel a negative reaction to something someone has said or done, ask yourself, “How old do I feel right now?”

If you don’t feel the age you are at this precise moment, chances are you’re not actually reacting to what’s happening. You’re reacting to the build-up of all the times before that this current circumstance represents that happens to feel compounding into this moment.

In the same way, we may trigger others. We can have the best of intentions with our words, but the meaning behind them for that person can cut open old wounds that are not apparent on the surface. Words and phrases can be interpreted in many ways. That is the nature of language.

If we can stand back and realize others’ reactions are in no way about us, we don’t have to take on and hold their anger or reactive response. We can find compassion for the one in front of us who is carrying old pain. This doesn’t mean we allow or approve of hurtful behavior; we can (and should) absolutely have our boundaries here. It simply means we don’t have to internalize it and make it about us.

And, we can try to honor where others are coming from if we realize that certain topics reopen old wounds. The first time is unintentional. Continuing to push buttons intentionally can be bullying. The other person may not realize their projection, and it isn’t our business to point it out to them to “fix.” Everyone is on their own journey, moving at their own pace in their own direction.

It's not our business how others react, but it is our business how we do.

This is an opening for you to consider how words are more than just their Webster’s Dictionary definition. Maybe even recall a time when someone meant well, but their words cut open an insecurity or an old, painful experience. Or when you said something with genuine kindness and compassion, but it was otherwise received. We all do it…it’s just part of life and the complications of communication.

May we speak with loving kindness.

May we allow and accept others to be who they are.

May we allow and accept others to be where they are in their path.

May we stay in our own sovereign energy and business.

May all old wounds stay in the past and dissolve completely in the present.

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