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To Harness the Power of Speech

We have all experienced the power of speech.

The right words can break a person’s heart, inspire a nation, lift a friend’s spirits, destroy a child’s self-esteem, propel a man to the White House, and bring a fresh smile to a tear-drenched face.

To harness the power of speech, and to use it as a force for good—in life and in the world—is a daily challenge. Speech confronts us at every turn.

Jewish wisdon teaches us that—

To harness the power of speech …

To harness the power of speech one first needs to know how to listen. Listen carefully to the child’s words, the child whose self image you hold in your hands. And then listen again. Listen to her heart as well; to the feelings and fears and hurts she cannot understand and is struggling in vain to express.

Listen to your boss, your friend, your spouse, your adversary and the teller at the bank. Listen to the words and try to hear the world they represent. Listen long and allow yourself to be silent, and to hear—to truly hear. To internalize all that you hear, so that it informs you and gives you pause. Listen, and hear, in a way that makes an impression on your soul. Be open to what you are hearing. Be daring and brave, not selective.

To harness the power of listening …

To harness the power of listening one first needs to know how to learn. To learn from all people—all people. To learn from every day; every morning song, every unexpected twist and every yearning in one’s heart. To learn from what takes place around you and within you. To learn that the opportunity to learn is everywhere. It is in the words of the wise, the headlines, and the truths that history reveals.

To harness the power of learning …

To harness the power of learning one first needs to know that if life is to be lived it must surely be learned. Love, fear, ambition, vision, children, meaning, happiness, growing old, spirituality, God, marriage, peace—even laughter—each must be learned.

For the sake of life; ours, those we love, those around us—and even for the sake of the world—we must strive to embody what it means to learn, to listen and only then to speak.

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Comments icon April 24, 2009