July 05, 2024

In the Shape of My Words by Brenda Leyland (Guest Post)




"Because right now, there is someone
out there with
a wound in the exact shape
of your words."

Sean Thomas Dougherty, American Poet
as found on GoodReads


A single word can turn someone's day around. A single sentence can change a person's life. And it can go either way—for better or for worse, depending on what's been said, and how.

The words leapt from the screen to my heart when I first read Sean Dougherty's quotation on GoodReads not so long ago. They buoyed my spirit, and my writer's imagination soared with possibility. For there isn't one among our company who doesn't yearn over the words we write and speak—hoping even a few will be that glove perfect fit for someone's wounded heart, bringing light and healing to it.

So why, when I later read the lines a second and third time, did I feel sucker punched in my inward parts? Surely, I didn't misread it. But what if the poet meant something opposite to my first thought—something unthinkable, but possible in my fallen humanity, and more to my sorrow, something probable. When Sean Dougherty said someone has a wound the exact shape of my words, did he mean that I have words that match the wound to make it whole? Or did he mean it was my words that created the injury in the first place? Dear Lord, it hardly bears thinking.

I scrambled to find the whole poem, I wanted to see its context. Found elsewhere online, it comes from Dougherty's poetry collection The Second O of Sorrow. It turns out, this one sentence is the poem, and when I read the title, which is phrased as a question, to me it becomes clear:
"Why Bother? Because right now, there is someone out there with a wound in the exact shape of your words." (The poet recites the poem HERE)
I breathe out a sigh. As a writer I long for my words to deliver messages of hope, joyfulness, and encouragement. I cringe remembering occasions when my impatient, insensitive words rushed in where angels feared to tread—ruffling feathers, agitating minds, and bruising tender hearts. In the middle of the night those sharpish words haunted, and my heart squeezed to think how unkind, how unlovely, how unlike Jesus they had been. Lest I spiral downward feeling the awfulness without hope, He graciously brings to mind occasions over my lifetime when my words had, indeed, poured like ointment over someone's aching heart—what joy I felt at those times in being an instrument for good. 

I do believe my instinctive first response to Dougherty's poem is right. No matter the poet's original intent, both possibilities are now etched on my mind. I cry out for mercy... and grace. For myself, and for anyone else who seeks it. Like the Psalmist calling out to his God, I yearn for the words of my mouth—and from the nib of my pen—to be acceptable in His sight (see Psalm 19:14). That they will affirm and be gracious, lovely and good, and will in no measure demean or belittle any soul.

The poet looks me in the eye and asks me, "Why bother?" I mull my answer carefully. Because the words I write, shaped with sensitivity and His divine love and inspiration, will one day exactly fit someone's wound and bring healing to it. Can anything be more joyful and enriching? Can a writer aspire to anything more worthy and excellent?


Top Image by CDD20 from Pixabay


Inspired by the beauty of God's world, Brenda blogs at It's A Beautiful Life. A longtime member of InScribe, she's been a past recipient of the Barnabas Award, a contributor and columnist in FellowScript magazine, and a contributor to the InScribe anthology 'Christmas: Stories & More'. Brenda's joy these days is to play with words and shape them into beautiful thoughts for good.


 

23 comments:

  1. Anonymous5:27 am GMT-7

    Lin Floyd-I've noticed my words are more effective if I ask questions and listen, rather than give advice.

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    1. Good point, Lin. None of us really like hearing advice (even if it's good for us). Thanks for stopping by.

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  2. Anonymous5:36 am GMT-7

    Such good words to ponder as we consider our thoughts, words, and actions. Thank you:)

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  3. Anonymous6:46 am GMT-7

    I only worked with you a short time, but in that time, your words, actions and countenance never caused hurt. Upon reflection, I feel your thoughtful kindness as an example of kingdom building. And today, through your writing, it continues. You are a blessing.

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    1. Jennifer, I think this is you. Your words affirm me today. Thank you. xo

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  4. Bob Jones8:48 am GMT-7

    I'm going to add that quote to my faves. Thank you, Brenda!

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  5. Oh my, dear Brenda, what a wonderful quote to open with. It's a post all on its own.
    May we by His grace be Psalm 19:14 writers all the way Home.
    Thank you for another lovely piece for us to mull over.
    Blessings.

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    1. "May we...be Psalm 19:14 writers all the way Home". Amen. Thanks, Wendy!

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  6. Elizabeth Danna9:55 am GMT-7

    Well said Brenda! I love that quote. Your words remind me of something that Bible teaches Joyce Meyer has said; early in her ministry, God showed her that she number of people that are can help is also the number that she can hurt. Our words have power, to heal or to hurt.

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    1. What Joyce said, that's a good thing to remember! Thanks, Elizabeth.

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    2. Elizabeth Danna8:50 pm GMT-7

      You're welcome Brenda.

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  7. A beautifully written post on the power of words. You've given me much to think about, Brenda.

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  8. Wow! I am left pondering, both the poem itself and your reflections upon it....

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  9. This is a wonderful post. I felt the accusation of the poem's words when I read them, and listening to the poet state the words very clearly, I still do. I think interpreting the words as meaning my words have inflicted wounds is reasonable because it is true. But it is also true that we can provide salve to open wounds with words filled with grace. Thank you for sharing this, Brenda! I love pondering what could be two meanings here, but ultimately, it's a good reminder to recognize the power of my words.

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    1. Thanks, Becki, for sharing your response to this poem. It gives us more to ponder. I'm glad for your comments.

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  10. Such a wonderful post, Brenda, of how our words matter. I've been reading Proverbs and have taken note on how much the writer(s) emphasize how important our wise, truthful, and beneficial can be.

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    1. Appreciate your note, Sandi, thank you. I too love those wonderful words in Proverbs. We've probably got the same ones underlined a dozen times. So inspiring.

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  11. "Can a writer aspire to anything more worthy and excellent?" No, she can't. The idea of someone out there with a wound the exact shape of my words is so beautiful and inspiring. May we be so sensitive to His Spirit that the words we write are indeed the perfect shape for someone. Such a beautiful post. Thank you!

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    1. Oh yes, to be so in tune with Him that our words will be the perfect shape for someone. Thank you, Joy!

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