Life and death are in the power of the tongue, speak life, every cell in your body

Life and death are in the power of the tongue

I’ve been somewhat unsettled in recent weeks hearing masses around the world chanting “I can’t breathe”. I believe in the power of the tongue in creating wellness and illness in our bodies.

I pin my hopes on George receiving justice: what was done to him was an abomination. I firmly believe that the systems that stand in place to perpetuate injustice and prejudice should be exposed and torn away—all the wrongs of those who are silenced and told that their opinions don’t matter.

I wasn’t going to write this post. This has been sitting in my drafts for two weeks. Not my place to comment. I didn’t want to be one to criticise.

But does holding back my voice not make me part of the problem, rather than contributing to a solution? So, let me say this clearly:

I am horrified by the continued use of the slogan”I can’t breathe“.

On the one hand, it’s great for the media. On the other hand, do those chanting it consider the double-edged sword it can be for their health?

Words spoken by masses with strong emotions: powerful stuff.

Calling into existence that which is spoken.

The question is: what does it create?

What spells are we casting?

We laugh at “abracadabra” – but many believe that the word actually has meaning and power.

Scholars who support the Hebrew etymology say that abracadabra is a corruption of the Hebrew, ebrah k’dabri, meaning “I will create as I speak,” ie that the act of speech will magically create new realities. … the words and letters of the Hebrew alphabet have the power to create.

Abracadabra, https://www.thejc.com/judaism/jewish-words/abracadabra-1.466709

life and death, Every cell in your body is eavesdropping on your thoughts & words, i can't breathe, #icantbreathe, united we stand, we can do it

Similarly, you may scoff at those that use affirmations and recite promises to themselves or God, claiming a blessing or healing.

But what if words and thoughts and emotions do have power?

This is particularly true of words spoken full of emotion.

What if I can’t breathe has power?

The first reference I can find to this slogan arises in late 2014, shortly after the asphyxiation of Eric Gardner by a police officer. His last words “I can’t breathe”, were raised like a mantra in the protests that followed in New York City.

“There was this quote staring me in the face, and that’s something that should be the quote of the year,” Shapiro recalled.
So the Yale Law Library’s associate director and lecturer revised his 2014 list, placing “I can’t breathe” in the top slot. His widely cited annual list, which is intended to capture the political and cultural mood of the country each year, serves as a supplement to “The Yale Book of Quotations,” originally published in 2006.

‘I can’t breathe.’ Eric Garner’s last words are 2014’s most notable quote, according to a Yale librarian

Unfortunately, when I took a quick look at the 2014-15 flu deaths for that same period, there was a small spike – from the usual 36,000 a year up to 51,000. Mere coincidence? Quite likely. There are probably a million factors that played a part in the increase. Again in 2017, when the book “I can’t breathe” by Matt Kaibbi comes out, and Queen Ifrica publishes her song “I can’t breathe”: we get another spike up to 61,000 flu deaths. Probably irrelevant.

However, at this moment in history, following on the heels of mass sickness caused by a little-studied virus, we have angry crowds chanting “I can’t breathe”. We have media pushing fear and uncertainty. We have politicians using fear for personal safety and security for their platforms and personal gain.

So, if our words do have power and every cell of our body is eavesdropping on our thoughts, emotions and words – recreating what we declare into existence – how important then are the words that we choose to chant in protest?

Justice for George becomes much more powerful than I can’t breathe if we believe that we have a hand in creating an outcome!

every cell in your body is eavesdropping on what you think, say, do and feel

Every cell in your body is eavesdropping.

In the same way that our mind is aware of everything that goes on in our body, our body and cells are listening and experiencing our thoughts, emotions and words. Unfortunately, our body takes those thoughts, emotions and words literally.

Our cells don’t differentiate when we are protesting from when we are having a phone call or merely meditating alone. Your body experiences your thoughts, emotions and words as they are. You can’t tell your body “I was just joking”.

Like a child that doesn’t understand sarcasm, our body responds to what was said and doesn’t take a joke. It takes everything we feel, say and think quite seriously.

In many different teachings, we find the effects of emotions on our organs:

  • anger: affects the liver
  • fear: affects the kidneys
  • grief: weakens the lungs
  • worry: affects the stomach
  • stress: wreaks havoc on your heart and mind

Examine, for a moment, how your words spoken with emotion are affecting different parts of your body.

Consider your inner child and the children around you:

We all have the voice of an inner critic stuck in our heads – and quite often it’s the voice of a parent, teacher or someone we respected or feared as a child. The voice that our child hears now is the voice that will become their inner critic in the future.

Do we want our children to have an inner voice that says “I can’t breathe”?

consider the impact of words on children

What are our children hearing and experiencing in the chants and protests? How are we explaining the situation to them? What conversations do we have that allow understanding, compassion and wisdom to guide the experience?

Consider a child: how do you build them up after you’ve stripped them down with words said in anger? Think for a moment about any relationship where words have been spoken in anger: if you don’t move past the hatred into love, understanding and acceptance, what footing is your relationship on?

The protests in Panama are not about Black Lives Matter: they are about the lock-down and people going hungry. I have it so much easier in what I have to explain! But I still have to explain to my daughter the images, emotions and even violence that she is witnessing if she catches the news.

At the same time, I explain how incredible our bodies and immune systems are! I talk about how we eat, and even how our emotions and thoughts can help us stay healthy and strong. I check myself any time I notice that I am feeling fearful or anxious: careful not to stuff it down but to release it. I don’t need my daughter to latch onto my fear or anxiety!

In the same way, I have to relate and quieten that inner child of my own: that part of me that feels insecure in any way.

Philippians 4:8, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things.
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things.

The power of your thoughts

Your thoughts influence your words and your actions. Long before you choose to do something, you have probably considered it multiple times.

Think, for a moment, about words that you spoke to someone in anger. How many times had you thought that before you actually said it? Then, in a moment of rage and slightly out of control (or perhaps in control but no caring about the consequences) you actually said what you’ve been thinking for a while. You voiced how you truly felt. Maybe it wasn’t the whole picture. But it started with thoughts that you have mulled over.

Consider the effect of thinking “I can’t breathe”, with all the nuances that it carries. Perhaps one of those nuances is that the system is unjust and doesn’t allow you to speak your mind.

If you regularly think “the system is unjust”, are you motivated to change it? Or do you get caught in a feeling of hopelessness? Notice the difference between thinking “I can participate in changing this unjust system” versus thinking “the system is unjust”.

Have you noticed how all your thoughts influence your emotions and your words? If your thoughts control your actions, then they have a role to play in creating your future! The action you take has a direct impact on your results.

The power of our emotions when mixed with words.

Our words are so much more powerful when they are spoken with emotion. It doesn’t matter if you are creating and destroying.

Anger at injustice can provide us with the strength and courage to embark on a journey that we might otherwise never take. Unfortunately, anger can also eat us up on the inside if we bottle it up, rather than channelling and releasing it.

Before becoming a bitter person: this was probably an angry person. Over time, the fire of the anger dies down, but the embers continue to burn within. The dissatisfaction and discontent are still there, unresolved. After the explosion of rage burnt out, bitter ashes and disillusion are left.

When we start a journey to transform our community, we may embark on it out of anger and frustration at the current situation. It is terrific to shout out to the world:

This is wrong! Wrongs must be righted!

"Your anger is the part of you that knows your mistreatment and abuse are unacceptable. Your anger knows you deserve to be treated well, and with kindness. Your anger is a part of you that LOVES you."
“Your anger is the part of you that knows your mistreatment and abuse are unacceptable. Your anger knows you deserve to be treated well, and with kindness. Your anger is a part of you that LOVES you.” https://twitter.com/apocalynds/status/1269711325749563399

But at some moment, love and compassion for our community need to replace that anger against the aggressors as the driving force of change. When we fail to recognise that our passion is driven by love and stay only in the rage, we miss an opportunity to grown in greater love and compassion.

Revolutions begin in angry protest and perhaps even rioting but have to end in love and compassion to build!

Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Make sure your thoughts, emotions & words serve your goals.

I love that injustice has awoken people to stand up and make a difference in their worlds. But if I could ask just one thing, it would be this:

Choose your words carefully, especially those spoken with emotion.

I want to hear the masses chanting:

Justice for George!
We can do it!
United we stand.
Black lives matter!

Fighting for justice!
We stand for justice.
We demand justice!

Respect me.
My voice matters!

I’m sure you could make a better list of powerful statements that could create change, without cursing your body or those supporting you.

And when we are done tearing down what no longer serves us, let’s build communities of compassion, love and kindness. Communities that are safe for our children, and that allow us to learn what it means to love our neighbour as ourselves.

Your words can either speak life, or your words can speak death. Our tongues can build others up, or they can tear them down

Life & death are in the power of the tongue.

Prov. 18: 21

pay attention, words, sight, heart, health, guard your heart, bring healing, tongue of the wise, as a man thinks, so is he, a cheerful heart, good medicine,

If I look to Proverbs for Wisdom, these are but a few of the reminders about the power of our thoughts, emotions and words:

Proverbs 12:18
The tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 23:7
As a man thinks, so is he.

Proverbs 4:23
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:20-22
My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.

Proverbs 17:22
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Active forgiveness: how to intentionally practice love

Today, as I look with great sadness at the anger erupting in communities in the United States, I realise that Christian leaders need to stand up and overturn a few more tables within the temple! Obviously, we haven’t overturned the tables of oppression!

Oppression can take so many forms: whether it’s the orphans (or children who are being trafficked), the widows (or human trafficking), the poor, the sojourners/immigrants/foreigners, or someone who you haven’t even recognised as your equal (race, education or any other standard).

The first table that needs to be overturned is the alter on which our individual egos sit.

Ego – that part of us that fails to understand that illness would become wellness if we would replace “I” with “WE”.

The illness of division could be the wellness of unity and cooperation, if we are willing to start within: with an awareness of our own feelings, anger, hatred and division. It is my ego that tells me that I am separate from those in pain.

When I saw the first posts about the events, questions came to mind – even along the lines of “is this another false flag operation” to get people to focus their attention onto something divisive, rather than awakening to creating the world and society in which we wish to live.

But the reality is that these events show the brokenness of the “normal” to which we wish to return.

How is it possibly okay for a white man (just because he has a uniform) to kneel on the neck of another man, already cuffed and in custody, until he stops breathing? Even if this was “created” to divert attention from something else: this requires our collective attention and healing! It is no less oppression, irrespective of the purpose which it serves.

My arrogance: daring to think that I am somehow above these events, says “not my problem”. But that’s not true.

It is exactly my privilege that is the problem!

It’s the fact that this would NOT happen to me that makes me the ideal person to say “something needs to change”. Deep within, I know that it’s time to heal within me the coldness and apathy that say “not my injustice”!

The collective pain

What springs to view with these events is the pain that many are suffering, sight unseen.

Today I read about the father that goes for a walk with his young daughter and the dog because he’s fearful of walking around his neighbourhood alone. I read about the young man being the only person of colour in his school, and constantly being pulled over by the cops, while his friends never received the same treatment.

And I realise that we are called to overturn the tables that allow some to be down-trodden, while others continue to live with privilege.

I’m not saying that I should “lose” my privileges, but rather that they should be the same privileges afforded to every person, regardless of race, creed, or economic strata.

Perhaps we need to learn a little more about restorative justice: the process where entire communities taking responsibility for restoring balance, harmony and the practice of forgiveness.

I’m talking about Ho’oponopono.

“Restorative justice is a philosophy that embraces a wide range of human emotions including healing, mediation, compassion, forgiveness, mercy, reconciliation as well as sanction when appropriate. It also recognizes a world view that says we are all interconnected and that what we do be it for good or evil has an impact on others.”

— “Restorative Justice – The Pacific Way” Paper presented at the 7th International Conference on Prison Abolition; Barcelona, Spain, 17 – 19 May 1995;  by Jim Consedine (see link at the end of this post)

I first learnt about restorative justice in law school in Waikato University, Hamilton, New Zealand.  Thankfully, I was at a very culturally connected law school, where we openly spoke about community justice systems and how the Pākehā system failed to take into account restoration of balance within the community.  It simply punished the offender (like a criminal justice system). 

But the community continued to suffer and hurt: with the criminal justice system, nothing is actually done to restore balance within the community.

Most people only know Ho’oponopono as 4 lines:

  • I love you
  • I’m sorry
  • Please forgive me
  • Thank you

But it’s more than just repeating the mantras… It’s opening up our awareness and emotions.

Ho’oponopono Practice: The Practice of Forgiveness

The origins of the Huna practice known as Ho’oponopono are a community reconciliation process. It is very similar to other Pacific Island restorative processes – which involved entire communities taking responsibility for restoring balance, harmony and the practice of forgiveness when harmony in the community has been broken.

Coming to Ho’oponopono from a lawyers perspective of community justice, I knew that it was so much more than simply 4 lines:

  • I love you
  • I’m sorry
  • Please forgive me
  • Thank you 

Not because I knew anything about the Hawaiian Huna practice itself, but simply because I recognized that there was so much more to restoration than simply saying “sorry”!  It’s much more than sending the “offender” to jail.

Restorative justice means righting the wrong that allows the crime to be committed in the first place. It addresses the question: “Why would four white men consider that it was okay, under any circumstances, to pin a man down under their knee until he stops breathing?”

True healing happens when we allow ourselves to experience what is happening in the community from every angle and clear the pain from every perspective:

  1. the perpetrator (Can I forgive him and his companions? Do I need to forgive myself for any hatred, anger or other feelings against them?);
  2. the victim (Can I forgive what others did to him? Do I need to forgive myself for any prejudice or feelings against him?)
  3. the bystanders (Is there any judgment in my heart against them? Do I feel that they failed in any way?)
  4. the family members (What forgiveness do I need to practice for the family of the victim or the perpetrators?)
  5. others in the community, including the protestors, police, first responders, or leaders (How do I consider that they have failed?)

It’s literally saying… I understand ALL of the pain and frustration – of every person involved and forgiving for each and every one of them for whatever I hold them at fault for. It is a process and quite possibly not something you can do in a single moment.

It begs the question: why were onlookers too afraid to intervene? It asks: “How did we create officers of the law that were so lacking in empathy and awareness, that they failed to hear this man begging and be moved by any compassion?”

be kind, love, forgiveness, ho'oponopono, practicing forgiveness, learning to forgive, I'm sorry, please forgive me, gratitude

Where do we start?

Forgiveness always starts within.

If you’re a Christian and you are moved to pray, then I invite you to start asking to be shown within yourself everything that needs to come to the surface and be dealt with! Before you go praying for peace in Minnesota or Minneapolis, ask to be shown the plank in your own eye that should be removed!

What are the little ways that you are failing to stand up for justice in your community? Where are you unconsciously supporting “the status quo”, rather than overturning the tables of inequality?

It’s so much easier to think that there’s a problem in Minnesota than to acknowledge that there is a problem in my own heart!

Don’t righteously pray to forgive those who are rioting and angrily violent: pray to understand the underlying emotions of that anger and violence, so that it touches your heart. Pray for empathy and understanding.

Yourself.

Hooponopono practice is the practice of forgiveness based on the knowledge that anything that happens to you or that you perceive — the entire world where you live — is your creation.  Whatever you have become aware of that exists in the world, has become your responsibility to set to right.

Everything in your life is entirely your responsibility: 100%. No exceptions.

Please don’t misunderstand what I mean.  I did not say it was your fault.  I said it’s your responsibility

You are 100% responsible for:

  • healing yourself and breaking down the barriers within your beliefs, emotions and fears;
  • changing the relationship you have with any other person of another race, religion or background that you have not been able to fully understand and relate to; and
  • changing your perception of the world, making it possible for you to overturn the tables of injustice.

Before you try to put in order what is wrong “out there in the world”, have a deep look within and see what needs to be put right within your heart.

homesless, beggar, guilt, forgiveness, prejudice, overturning tables of injustice, racism, discrimination
Who needs to feel your love and acceptance?

Ho’oponopono practise is a journey to restore inner peace and balance.  It begins by changing my inner world in order to effect change in the exterior world.

Three steps PLUS gratitude

How can we heal this pain with Ho’oponopono?

I love you

Start simply reminding yourself, regularly and consistently of Divine Love – “I love you”.  “I love you” just as you are today, with mistaken views and perceptions of the world, with perceptions that have not allowed you to grow and change your community, and with all the baggage that you have chosen to carry around.  I love you in spite of your fears and weakness. And because I love you, “I recognise that whatever comes to me in this life is my creation.”

Can you expand the circle of “I love you” to your neighbours?

What about to your whole suburb? Or the suburb next to yours? Can you extend that “I love you” to your town or city? How comfortable are you putting a face on “I love you”? What resistance are you feeling when you say “I love you”? Acknowledge it, so that you can forgive yourself fully.

I’m sorry

Once you recognise love and even those areas of lack of love, you can tell yourself “Sorry”.  Sorry for the errors of thought, words and actions that created those memories and held onto that energy. Sorry for failing to love fully and completely. I’m sorry for not practising unconditional love.

  • What do you need to forgive yourself for?
  • What do you need to ask your neighbour forgiveness for? What are you sorry for?

Don’t just say it: allow yourself to connect with the emotions. Perhaps you feel shame as you say “I’m sorry that I looked the other way” or “I’m sorry when I laughed nervously when someone said something rude to you, because I was too weak to stand up to them for you.”

Allow yourself simply to feel what needs to be felt. What you resist, persists in your life. If you fail to acknowledge what you are feeling, you cannot forgive yourself for it.

Please forgive me

It’s not just about asking for forgiveness: the miracle happens when you give yourself permission to release the burden you’ve been carrying. Forgiveness is about letting it go.

It’s impossible to turn over a new leaf unless we are willing to allow the old leaf to fall off the tree, decompose and become dust.

Take a moment to imagine a new relationship with yourself and with your neighbour. How will your view of the world change? How will you change your interaction with them?

Thank you

And then, of course, the practice of gratitude – gratitude for the freedom that this brings!  Gratitude for the change in my way of thinking, speaking and acting.  Thank you for the new opportunities this creates.  Thank you for the changes that will start happening in my relationships and how I relate to others.

coming together, building bridges, understanding, compassion, building communities, trust, love

Coming together as a community

Once we have taken care of the sty in our own eyes, maybe we can come together in small community groups and begin to work on this collectively: slowly building the size of the groups that do this together, until we have rebuilt love and trust.

But if we aren’t willing to overturn the tables of the status quo – nothing will change.

I invite you to join me on this journey of discovery – where we can learn together what it means to heal the world and restore balance to hurting communities, by starting within.

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Overturning tables: taking on the culture of abuse in churches

This morning I read Nancy Beach’s description of the final outcome at Willow Creek Church: “Nancy Beach: A Voice of Wisdom“. I found myself, once again, facing the anger at the injustices that happen within churches and missions! I wrote about this in February of this year, when NBC had a segment dealing with the abuse that happened in New Tribes Mission: Shadows of the Past.

The thought that came to me this morning as I read Nancy’s article was

This is a moment for overturning tables and complete disruption!

Read More »
refugee, refugees, fleeing, hunger, starvation, war, famine, conflict, armed conflict, sojourner, alien, foreigner, immigrant, illegal, resident, resident alien, discrimination, racism, integration, respect, love, God

The alien that resides among you…

As I see here in Panama wave after wave of Venezuelans arriving, running from the disaster in their country, I realise that it is hard for us to welcome them with open arms.  People here feel threatened by the mass migration wave that has hit Panama – “there are too many of them”. Crimes rates have increased over the past three years. Housing has become more expensive. Unemployment has increased.  The cost of living has gone up.

And “the Venezuelans are to blame”…Read More »