OPINION

Taking ownership of the words that you use

CONSIDERATION: We are responsible for the words that we choose to use, especially when the things we say hurt people.
CONSIDERATION: We are responsible for the words that we choose to use, especially when the things we say hurt people.

A discussion opened up at a recent dinner that I attended. I had no thoughts of my own to contribute, but stated that I had read a simple yet excellent article on the very subject, only days ago.

I informed those gathered I couldn't remember where I had read this article. But given it was only a few days ago, I whipped out my phone in the hope that I might find it in my recent search history.

To my shock and private embarrassment, I discovered the "excellent" article I had recently read was written by me.

I admitted to you not long ago that, from time to time, I read my own articles and here's your proof. No wonder I thought this article was "excellent" - I must have agreed with all the author's ideas.

I slowly slid my phone back into my pocket and listened to the ensuing conversation in the hope that no one at the table would ask if I had found this "excellent" article.

I began to consider that you cannot quote from yourself. Well, not with any authority, and not without raucous laughter from your audience.

But then, after further musing, I began to wonder - do we not quote ourselves perpetually all day?

Apart from when we say "for as so-and-so says...", are we not constantly quoting ourselves by saying "for as I say..."?

I wish it was different, but loving words are quickly forgotten unless they are constantly repeated. Hateful words are forever remembered, even if never repeated. Never say the horrible things you want to say, believing you can just say 'sorry' later.

A recent PhD graduate told me that if you use research you have previously published yourself, you are still required to reference it. To quote him, "it is possible to plagiarise yourself".

No doubt you've heard the quote - appropriately anonymous: "Silence, while widely misconstrued, can never be misquoted." Yet, eventually, you must speak and you must either quote yourself, or another.

At least three times in my life I have been seriously misquoted, and twice by someone trying to get themselves out of trouble.

Now, given that my words are always getting me in trouble, how would using my words get anyone out of trouble?

And in one of these cases, the person was actually quoting Austin Powers! Do you think, that under any circumstance, I would ever quote Austin Powers? Oh, behave!

These days, with countless ways to communicate with each other, it's still important that we own our communication with others - the words we use - and not blame them on others or circumstances.

Even if we plagiarise other people's words, we are still the author of all that we say to people - and never more than when we hurt them.

Imagine that every morning for 20 years, a husband says to his wife "I love you".

But then, only once on one angry morning, he says "I hate you!"

Not even another 50 years of daily "I love yous" will erase from her memory that horrible two seconds where he said exactly the opposite.

To quote the great Persian mathematician Omar Khayym from more than 900 years ago: "The moving finger writes; and, having writ, moves on.

"Neither all your piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all your tears wash out a word of it."

The profound truth of this quote is why it is still so quotable.

I wish it was different, but loving words are quickly forgotten unless they are constantly repeated.

Hateful words are forever remembered, even if never repeated.

Never say the horrible things you want to say, believing you can just say "sorry" later.

Some people apologise with "sorry I shouted at you, but I was angry".

That's like saying "sorry I shot that bullet at you, but I had a gun in my hand".

We cannot blame others or circumstances for what we say.

It's been said that Judas had the best priest, the best teacher, the best leader and the best friend in Jesus.

But it was still Judas who said what he shouldn't have said, not Jesus.

It's a compliment to you when people struggle to forget horrible things you have said to them. It means they love you.

And to those who love you, you are very quotable.

Twitter: @fatherbrendanelee