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Gentle Virtues

Weighing Our Words

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05/01/2009 - Unlikely things cn be weighed. In 1860 some chemists met and gave atomic weights to hydrogen, oxygen and other elements. It probably sounded crazy and meaningless to most but not to a young Siberian man by the name of Dmitri Mendeleev. He saw those elements with atomic weights as "the building locks of the universe". By carefully examining the orderliness of their weights and chemical properties, he arranged the 63 known elements into the first periodic table which inspired other chemists to make great discoveries and give us the impressive periodic table we have today.

Most of us will not have the need to weigh potassium and will not need to know the atomic weight for titanium, but each of us can weigh another unlikely thing and that is our own words. Our words have weight and they vary in weight. Before we use our words, particularly the heavier ones, it would be wise for us to weigh them carefully.

When we weigh our words, we need to use the right kind of scale. Not just any kind will do.

When my son John was a newborn, I took him to a grocery store and carefully set him on one of the scales in the produce department. Keeping a steady hand on his wiggly tummy, I tried to read the number to which the wobbly needle pointed most. He was somewhere between ten and twelve pounds.

Just as I would not recommend a grocery scale to weigh a baby, I do not recommend that kind of one-plated scale to weigh our words. I recommend a two-plated scale, an imaginary one, of course.

Look with me at the word "balance". It comes from two Latin words: "bis" meaning two and "lanx" meaning dish. The word "balance" comes from the two-plated scale that balances with equal weights on each plate.

When we weigh our words, let's weigh them with virtue. Wen we need to correct someone, let's express our words with a balanced measure of gentleness so we can help our listeners guard against anger and rebellion. When we share our knowledge, let's share it with a balanced measure of humility so we can guard against pride.

With the right words weighed carefully on the right sale we can impart invaluable correction, knowledge and affirmation to others. Like Mendeleev, we can contribute to the wellbeing of mankind.

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Chris Walsh

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