If you watch the news, you’ll see that people who have “words to live by” often begin to attack and even kill others. Words are tools, and yet it seems that they can be more dangerous than gunpowder.
Imagine two men facing each other, pointing past one another. One is pointing at a tornado that is coming, and the other at a raging fire headed towards them.
Each sees their own truth and is angry at the sight of the other’s hand. Each feels that the other’s hand is “wrong.” This may seem silly, but replace the tornado and fire with any modern issues, and the hands with words, and this scene describes how we often try to communicate.
We point past each other with our words, arguing as though we are looking at the same facts and experiences. We want to prove our words are the right ones, instead of learning to look at what the other’s words are pointing at.
This isn’t just about communication with others. We call things “right” or “wrong”, according to how they compare to our “definitions.” Unlike mathematics, though, word formulas and definitions can never be so precise. For example, with the least effort, you can create a circumstance where “stealing” would be right, and “helping” someone wrong. It may not occur to someone that maybe there is truth outside of his words and logic.
It’s great to have guidelines, like “don’t lie,” or “we have the right to defend ourselves.” It is even better to remember that these rules will someday fail us, and we will have to make new ones. Words are just tools. There are words to die by, but there are no words to live by.