I love words. But words get us in trouble sometimes. Sometimes, I wonder if words get in the way of us supporting each other the way we need.
Take, for instance, this scenario: Your friend’s relative has just been admitted to the hospital and the friend takes to social media to ask for support. “Please pray for my aunt,” she writes. You want to give her support, and you certainly want only good things for her aunt. The catch is, you’re not necessarily religious. Sending prayers sounds a bit intimidating. Prayers are definitely out of your wheelhouse. You don’t want to be a hypocrite. So, you fire off a carefully worded note, instead. “Thinking of you!” you write. Is that what your friend wanted?
Or, the other side of the coin – let’s say your not-so-religious friend is dealing with stress and asks you to “send healing energy.” You’re traditional and not into the weird, tree-hugger-esque, hippy-dippy lingo that “healing energy” evokes. Frankly, it makes you uncomfortable. You’d sooner light a candle and say a prayer than even think about crystals or mantras. What does “energy” even mean? Do you send your prayers, because that rings true for you? Or do you write, “Healing energy sent your way!” and call it a day?
Does it matter?
Does it really matter what words you use, if the sentiment is on par?
It’s a matter of hypocrisy. If there’s one thing that most people want to avoid, it’s losing face in front of others. It’s a sociological truth that we will do anything we can to make our actions match our stated opinions. It feels good when our attitudes and our behavior match. Conversely, we experience cognitive dissonance if they do not. If we have stated, privately or publicly, that we think religion is a bunch of hogwash, it doesn’t feel good to suddenly turn on a dime and offer public prayers for a friend. What would people think of us? Similarly, if we dismiss new age whacko-doodle as new age whacko-doodle, it doesn’t feel good to suddenly engage in sending energy to someone.
Words do matter. I make a living off words, and I make relationships out of words hourly. Of course words matter. Words can be the difference between honest connection and utter betrayal. Yet, if the sentiment is correct, maybe we could be less concerned with the consistency of our own messages and more concerned about honoring the wishes of the friends who have humbled themselves enough to ask for help in their time of need.
When someone asks me to send them healing energy, it is not about me. It’s not about whether I believe in energy, or prayers, or sun salutations, rooster-worship, sacrificial robots or drops of divine energy derived from the root of a dingleberry tree. It’s not about me. It’s about them.
I’ve made the choice, moving forward, to give my friends what they ask for, regardless of the name I feel comfortable with. It’s about supporting them, and if they want to use words I’m uncomfortable with, that’s my problem.
You want prayers? I’ll pray for you. I don’t think God will mind if I do it wrong. You want energy? Done.
I’ll be here for you in any language you need me to be.