On a recent Netflix binge session over the holidays, I discovered a fascinating series called Manhunt : Unabomber. It’s not the normal thing I’d usually watch but I thought I’d give it a try, and soon I was hooked and the binge started. (binges are ok on Christmas break with holiday chocolate by your side.)
In short, this series is a re-telling of the story of “unabomber” Ted Kaczynski who remained at large for over 17 years. During that time, he mailed or delivered a series of bombs that killed 3 American people, and injured many more. He started in 1979 and it wasn’t until 1995 that the real first break came in the case. It’s a fascinating and complex story – with many components.
The most interesting thing to me was how ultimately Kaczynski was caught because of his words. Every letter he sent was studied, an essay he wrote was published and eventually he was identified by the words he had used. His style, his prose, the way he expressed his thoughts were recognized by someone who knew him. For years, investigators went down the wrong path and initially didn’t think they was any merit to this new way of “linguistic forensics” but in the end it led to his arrest and conviction. (you really need to watch the series to get the full scope)
I couldn’t stop thinking about this for days. It’s pretty incredible. Imagine in a country of millions of people, you were identified precisely because of the way you expressed yourself through your words.
It’s pretty simple.
Words reveal who you are.
As a writer and communicator words make up so much of my life. When you think about it – words are an important part of everyone’s life.
That’s a staggering and sobering thought in our current climate. The past weeks I’ve observed and watched and read words on so many issues and situations happening around the globe.
Words of accusation. Words of retractions. Words of hate. Words of denial. Words of divisiveness. Words of pride.
Words. Words. Words.
I keep thinking how much our words reveal who we are. I’ve observed how it’s easy to toss words over screens and on walls and in tweets, and how online “living” creates fake spaces where we feel brave and bold. We’re free to throw out daggers without fear of any consequences because after all, it’s only words. It’s just our opinion. It’s what we believe. We have the right to express ourselves.
And of course we do.
But your words.
They reveal who you are.
Whether you are the most powerful leader in the world, or living your best life in the place where you’ve been planted – your words matter so much.
It’s said that actions speak louder than words. But words used as weapons shout so loud that even kindness can be drowned out. Good can be lost. Hope can be destroyed because the noise that surrounds suffocates and puts out the small lights of change trying to ignite.
I’m sure there have been words of love spoken out recently. There are many incredible voices in our culture that are believing for hope and for change. But I’m finding it hard to remember, those voices aren’t as clear. Hate shouts and tries to silence what love wants to do.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find words of kindness in a world where words of hate spread like fire.
So let’s work on that. Every word we say. The way in which we conduct ourselves and express the things we are passionate about. There’s a way to do that without hate. There’s a way to stand up against the wrongs in the world in a way that doesn’t create more wrong. There’s a way to care about things that matter without destroying everyone who doesn’t agree with what you think.
Choose your words carefully.
They reveal who you are.
No one is changing the world with a word war.
Maybe I simplify things. Maybe I’m naive. Maybe I need a stronger backbone and to be more confrontational. But I don’t see how that will change any of the things I care about.
I can do more good in this word, and care about the things that matter to me by using words that don’t divide. I can make a different by going out and doing instead of sitting and yelling through a keyboard.
Responding to hate with hate doesn’t change the world
Showing love changes the world.
Being love changes the world.
I’m not saying it’s easy. There’s a lot of work to be done.
I love words, but I want my actions to be louder.
It’s a really weird thing to learn a lesson from a unabomber on Christmas break.
But I did.
Our words matter.
Our words identify who we are.
Choose them with care.