Our words are measured by their quality, not their quantity – Anonymous
49 Days at Sea
On July 14th, 2018, Aldi Novel Adilang was on a rompong, a floating fish trap shaped like a hut, performing his duties as a lamp keeper. The lamps on a rompong are designed to attract fish into the traps. Heavy winds snapped the rompong’s moorings anchored to the seabed by a long rope, and Aldi drifted out to sea.
With only a few days worth of supplies, Aldi survived by catching fish and cooking them using wood from his hut. He sipped seawater from his clothes, using them as a filter to reduce the amount of salt. Aldi was adrift for 49 days before being picked up by a Panamanian vessel. Besides the makeshift filter to reduce his salt intake, Aldi had another filter that kept him hopeful. At some point, Aldi became suicidal. He considered jumping into the ocean and ending his ordeal. In this moment of loneliness and depression, Aldi called to mind his parents’ advice to pray to God in times of distress. In addition to praying, he sang Christian songs and read his Bible.
Water and Words
Like water, our words are vital for life. The words Aldi’s parents spoke to him were a filter or barrier preventing the toxic thought of suicide from passing through and becoming his last act. The filter of his parents’ words drew him to the lifeline of prayer. Similarly, we can greatly enhance the positive impact of our words by measuring them with quality, not quantity. For our better angels to be expressed consistently, here are two filters to apply with our words.
The older I get, the more I avoid buying shoes with laces. I appreciate slip-on shoes. I can put them on and take them off while standing. The exception is my running shoes. Laces, as in the case of running shoes, are crucial to ensure proper fit and function. They are designed to make the shoe perform as needed.
Like laces improve the performance of a shoe, authenticity enhances the quality of our words. Authenticity gives our words proper fit, function, and form as they project compassion instead of destructive criticism. The filter of authenticity keeps our words grounded with sincerity which is a visible sign that we value others.
Authenticity and compassion marked the advice Aldi’s parents gave him regarding prayer in times of distress. Their words were a lifeline to redirect Aldi’s thoughts and actions when he was hopelessly drifting at sea. We create the possibility of becoming a lifeline for someone when we filter our words with authenticity. And the wellspring from which authenticity and compassion flow is affection.
I am keenly watching my speech. A recent personal assessment has opened my eyes to some gaping holes in my communication. I am accustomed to speaking with the aim of finding if someone has done something I need. I especially find this behavior prevalent in my home. I would ask my wife or daughter Esther interrogative questions that start with, “Did you _____?” or “Have you ______?” Only after they satisfy my barrage of inquiries do I decide whether or not to engage in more synergistic conversations. It has turned me into a police officer in my home.
Affection begins not with what have you done for me lately but with how are you doing and how can I make your day or life better? This minor adjustment in how we converse with others helps filter out the unintentional ways we become indifferent through our words.
The filter of affection deposits care into the heart of the listener. People are more apt to connect deeply in conversation when they sense someone cares.
I am making mental changes to view people in my home from the perspective that they are human beings and not machines. Deeper connections are the outcome of this adjustment.
Affection is not about being soft and mushy and telling people what tickles their ears. Affection is a demonstrative pose we convey with our words that even when words are difficult to hear they are filtered with love. Relationships can have healthy conflict when the filter of affection stays in place. This filter keeps out the temptation to make conflict about winning the argument while losing the relationship.
Final Thought: We live in an ocean of words. Words like heavy winds are powerful. When negatively spoken, words can leave us or others adrift in life depressed, discouraged, and without hope. Raising the quality of our lives and displaying our better angels calls us to raise the quality of our words. Like Aldi’s parents, words acts as a barrier between constructive and destructive thoughts and actions. Careless and sarcastic speech sinks even the strongest of people. No one is immune to the damaging effect of words. May our words be filtered with authenticity and affection, regardless of the time or place. In doing so, our better angels will always be on display. What is the quality level of your words?
Keep on Keeping on!