The Power of Words
Human communication is fundamentally mediated by words. Even though there are many different languages in the world, they all utilize words. Although there are numerous studies on communication, less attention has been given to the words that constitute the basic elements of communication. What are words? What is the purpose of words? Do words contain an essence or power intrinsic to themselves? Uttering certain words can affect human relationships for good or bad. Speaking fitting or poorly chosen words can even affect one’s health.
This article investigates the power contained in words. This power can operate in two directions: for good or for bad. If we are aware of this fact, we can change the way we use words. We will use them only for good purposes and apply them with a positive attitude to daily life. Words constitute a big part of the environment of everyday life. According to Unification Thought [UT], human beings stand in a subjective position to nature and all things.
Among the elements of nature, water is fundamental and crucial for life. All plants and animals require water for their existence, and human beings do as well. If our water is polluted, it brings serious problems. In this light, I examine evidence that water is affected by human words. If there is a resonance between water and the words we use, then this would mean that bad words can pollute the human environment no less than toxic waste.
People use words to hurt others. Yet the words we use affect not only the other person, they also affect ourselves. When we use good words when speaking to others, our words foster meaningful human relationships and help to raise humanity. Furthermore, good words nourish health, both spiritually and physically. The contents of words relate to the Three Great Blessings: maturity of individual character, building a good family, and dominion over the natural world.
This article offers useful information for understanding the power of words and their value for building of one’s character, improving communication, and improving the environment. It is particularly important for parents, who are constantly speaking to their children, and educators, who are every day speaking words to their students, to be aware of the power of words.
Unification Teachings about Words
Communication as Give and Take Action
From the perspective of Divine Principle [DP], communication can be classified as give and take action in which words are exchanged. It is as with a game of catch: words are thrown and caught, and we catch the words that are thrown back. We should know what we are throwing, for what purpose, and to whom. We have to think about the receiver’s condition when we throw the ball; that is to say, it is not good to throw too strongly or throw it to a place and with timing that makes the ball difficult to catch.
Give and take action generates all the forces for existence and action, according to DP. Hence, for example, when we read the scriptures in Hoon Dok Hae it is better to read aloud than silently because consciousness is enhanced when using our physical body (vocal cords); specifically the give and take action of the internal elements of words and external elements in the human body can generate the force to maintain concentration and repel sleep. It may be worth mentioning that neuroscience agrees with this suggestion: people generally remember only 10 percent of what they read but remember 20 percent of what they hear. For these reasons, speaking words is more effective than silent reading for learning.
The Origin of Words in the UT Perspective
The term Logos is found in the Gospel of John: “In the beginning was the Word… all things were made through him” (John 1:1-3). DP says, “Logos is Greek for ‘rational principle’ or ‘the Word.’” The origin of words and language is thus to be found in God. This is discussed in UT in the chapter on Logic:
Why does a human being think? The reason is that, prior to the creation of the universe, God engaged in thinking. That is, prior to the creation of the universe, God established the purpose of actualizing love based on Heart, and then made plans in accordance with that purpose. That constituted His thinking, or Logos (Word).
Logic is called the knowledge of Logos. Looking more carefully into Unification Logic, we see that Logos is an internal entity that is formed for the purpose of love:
As explained in the Theory of the Original Image, the Inner Sungsang of the inner developmental four-position foundation refers to intellect, emotion, and will, and the Inner Hyungsang refers to ideas, concepts, laws and mathematical principles. In the inner developmental four position foundation, give and receive action takes place centering on purpose, which is established centering on Heart (love). That is to say, give and receive action takes place in order to actualize the purpose of Heart, whereby Logos or a plan is formed. Therefore, the plan formed is the plan for actualizing the purpose of love. This is the logical structure. Thus, logic refers to the inner four position foundation of Logos, which is formed through the inner give and receive action to actualize the purpose of love.
First, the Logos is formed as an internal idea centered on Heart (love). Next, God developed His creation to actualize that idea: this is the “two-stage structure of creation.” Thus John 1:1-3 provides a basis for UT’s philosophy of creation.
Furthermore, human beings, as creators in their own right, should follow the same process as God did, with thoughts and actions motivated by heart and love. In subject-object relationships between human beings and between humans and things, we are meant to love: love people, love ourselves and love things.
Sungsang and Hyungsang: Words Have Invisible Elements
According to the UT chapter on Ontology, “Every created being possesses the dual characteristics of Sungsang and Hyungsang.” For that reason, words and language have both sungsang and hyungsang elements. “Language is formed through inner developmental give-and-receive action, which has an intellectual aspect (logos) centered on reason and an emotional aspect (pathos) centered on emotional feeling.” Language has emotional aspects as sungsang and intellectual content as hyungsang. Language has propositions, contents, and meaning as sungsang and words, sentences and signs as hyungsang. Furthermore, we can understand the mood or feeling of spoken words by their intonation and stress even when we cannot understand their meaning, for example, in the case of a foreign language. Thus we can grasp the internal contents of language through the external form.
The sungsang and hyungsang elements of all things relate through give and receive action. When sungsang and hyungsang interact as subject and object partner, the subject affects the object, and the object can also affect the subject. It is possible to exchange the position, namely, the subject element can become the object and the object element can become subject, centering on heart. Likewise, if we change our usage of words and language, it will affect our thought, mind, and behavior.
Is there a resonance between water and the words we use?
The Relation between Thought, Words and Behavior
Matthew Budd, a physician at the Harvard Community Health Plan, the first behavioral medicine department, wrote You Are What You Say, in which he argues that human beings are made by their own words. Budd insists that people tend to speak words out of their own character, as formed by their history and circumstances. He states, “Acknowledging the impact your personal history has had on your life, learn how your use of language [words] affects and reflects who you are and think of how you can use language in a healthier way.” In short, patients who have idiopathic symptoms may be influenced by their thought and words, and if they change those, they will recover.
There are certain similarities between Budd’s ideas and the perspective of Unification Thought. Budd began from his sense of the limitation of Western medicine, as manifest in the mind-body dualism that began with René Descartes. Just as Descartes believed that mind and body are completely different, Western medicine had been pursuing only the bodily cause of sickness. Budd and other physicians, including Patch Adams, stated that mind and body are deeply connected to each other.
For that reason, Budd, et. al., suggested that the words that people habitually say can make them sick or disordered:
If language (word) is so central to human life in all of its dimensions, then part of our attempt to create a new awareness of mind and body must involve building linguistic awareness, facility, and competence. You are in language already all of the time. But you are not skillful at observing it because you have no powerful distinctions for doing so. With skill at observation comes more success in life and less suffering.
If we can change the patterns and tendency of thought, this will change our words and behavior. Although it might be hard to change one’s pattern and tendency of thought in the short term without help, we can begin by intentionally changing the way we use words. Words affect our thought, so speaking good words will help recovery from illness. This is in accord with UT:
The universe was created through Logos and performs its movements in accordance with Logos; in other words, the universe is supported by Logos. Human beings also were created through Logos, and their lives should be in complete accordance with Logos. Thus, the human being is a being of logos.
Budd’s recommendation is true because human beings are influenced by their logos — the words which they speak and then manifest in their lives.
The scriptures of Buddhism, like many religions, teach an idea similar to UT. We read in the Dhammapada:
The thought manifests as the word; the word manifests as the deed; the deed develops into habit; and the habit hardens into character —
So watch the thought and its ways with care; and let it spring from love, born out of concern for all beings.
As the shadow follows the body, as we think, so we become.♦
(Excerpted from the Journal of Unification Studies, Vol. 10, 2009)
Hiroshi Nakata (UTS Class of 2008) is pastor of Hiroshima/Higashi church in Japan.