What if all the words you spoke or wrote came with a price tag? Let’s say 10 cents each. Sound cheap? It’s not. The average sentence could cost about 50 cents. You could rack up an invoice of a few dollars rather quickly.
But, I’m going to be a little more liberal than that. I’m going to give you the first 1000 words at no cost. That seems like a lot of words, but in reality its the equivalent of two typed pages. You could use up these words easily before lunch.
In this imaginary world, every word would be debited from your word bank, even those you mumble to yourself, or sing along to the radio or even swear at the driver that just cut you off on the interstate. You would also use up part of your allotment each time you talked to your pet. The writen word would count against your bank as well. Every word in the emails you write, or those you post on FaceBook or Twitter would be debited, as well. Once your words were used up, every word you used after that would be charged at ten cents a word. At midnight, your word account would be replenished. You could also save words for use later by keeping your mouth shut.
If this was our reality, imagine how our conversations would change. We would carefully choose our words so we wouldn’t have to repeat ourselves. We would spend less time in idle chatter and spend more time on important topics.
Hand gestures and facial expressions would become more important. Instead of greetings we would smile and wave. Instead of saying goodbye we would hug and kiss our friends and reletives. We might also find ourselves prefering in-person conversations over the online kind. And of course, arguments would be reduced to just a few words.
We would stop talking to our pets, because secretly we know they really don’t understand verbal communication. Our children would learn at an early age that if they save up their words, they can use them later. And the biggest waste of words, swearing, would probably disappear, altogether.
But, thankfully this is only an imaginary world, and we, as Americans grow up believing we are granted free speech, in fact it is covered in the first amendment to the constitution. This means we can speak freely about anything, at anytime, to anybody, without worry about the cost, right?
That is so wrong!
Some words can be quite costly. They can ruin a friend’s day, kill a relationship, even destroy a child’s life.
Other words are priceless. They can teach history, preach the gospel, even reach to the far side of the world.
Some words are worth saving. Those are the words that should be set to music, painted on canvas, or carved in stone.
And then there are those times when there are no words. When words would just impose on the moment. When words are just not enough. In those moments, silence is golden.