So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll; and then he said to me, “Take it, and eat; it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth.”
~ Revelation 10:9 (HCSB)
“Eat These Words,” the title of this post, is a play on the title of the book written by Peterson (2006): Eat this Book in which he writes:
Words spoken or written to us under the metaphor of eating, words to be freely taken in, tasted, chewed, savored, swallowed, and digested, have a very different effect on us from those that come at us from the outside, whether in the form of propaganda or information.[i]
Peterson’s book addresses the way we are to read Holy Scripture, but his message may offer real substance for the way we encounter words in our everyday living—those soulful, resonant words having the transformative power to reorder our imaginations and to subsequently (re)establish our moral stance in the world. “Words–spoken and listened to, written and read—are intended to do something in us…. ”[ii]
Just the other day, I received an inquiry asking if we should remove a word from a question posed to students in a textbook case study in a human resource management course—or remove the question or case study altogether—because “it might be interpreted as a racially insensitive statement.” The word was
How could so small a word have garnered such an impassioned response? Context (or lack thereof)? Reading “into the text” rather than “out of the text”? Or, genuine fear of offending others or another?
Significantly, “words are never mere words—they convey spirit, meaning, energy and truth.”[iii]
Words reveal. We are presented with a reality, with truth that makes our world larger, our relationships richer. Words get us out of ourselves and into a responsive relation with a larger world of time and space, things and people.[iv]
Our words have power to build up. They also have the power to tear down and destroy[v]—against which, education has always had a place at the table.
To that end, Gerson (2017) asserts “education must mean more than the avoidance of offense….True education always involves risk – particularly the risk of giving offense.”[vi] Do you agree? He further adds, “Students are not defiled by the existence of terrible words and ideas. They are defiled by acceptance or normalization of those words or ideas.”[vii] Is his thought valid?
“Words [aptly] spoken are like apples of gold in settings of silver.”
~ Proverbs 25:11 (HCSB)
[i] Peterson, E. H. (2006). Eat this book: A conversation in the art of spiritual reading. Cambridge, UK: Wm. B.
Eerdsmans Publishing Co. (p. 10)
[ii] Ibid (p. 21).
[iii] Ibid (p. 50).
[iv] Ibid (p. 50).
[v] What does the Bible say about the power of our words? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.gotquestions.org/power-of-words.html
[vi] Ibid (p. 2B).
[vii] Ibid (p. 2b).