A Few Simple Words

A recent Twitter thread asked for folks to respond with six words that could change the world (with the hashtag #6wordworldchange). People responded with statements such as:

“Help me understand what you mean.”

“This is hard. I need help.”

“I believe you. I’ll help you.”

“I was wrong. Please forgive me.”

“You have something to teach me.” 

“Thanks so much. I love you.”

“God could not love you more.”

“What can I do to help?”


Only six words—but with kindness and grace behind them.

No grandiose essays, no explanations or long, flowery sentences. Just a few, short words.

Poets do this, too: piercing us with sparse, carefully-selected words.

We’re surrounded by a plethora of words each day. Maybe we are surrounded by too many words. I, who love words, both want to reject and accept that notion.

In the beautiful book, The Lost Words, the author and illustrator share words that were removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary in 2007, such as: acorn, adder, bluebell, bramble, fern, heather, kingfisher, otter, raven, willow, and wren.

Words from nature were removed and replaced with words like broadband, celebrity and voicemail.[1]

When we choose to use one word, we do so at the expense of another. We know they give life or death— one or the other. 

Maybe the essential words are but few:

Thank you.
I’m sorry.
How can I help?
I was wrong.
I believe you.
I care.
You matter.
I see you.
You have something to teach me.
You are important.


The Simplest Words are the Hardest

The simplest words are often the hardest to say, the ones which meet the deep soul need to be seen and known. Maybe that’s why we have so many unnecessary ones.

In some instances, we give away too many words, other times, we hoard too many, and on other occasions, we misuse the words we have. In the midst of frivolity and excess, there is a need for intentional, succinct, concise words, carefully chosen. We wax eloquent on moral philosophies, theories, and opinions on what we should or should not do or say. We analyze books with words longer than the books themselves.

“Truth is ever to be found in simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things.” – Isaac Newton

We’re continuously exposed to an abundance of verbose opinions. We scroll headlines—a few brief words—and form opinions. A constant exposure of multitudinous words obfuscates the truth.


Discernment Requires Stepping Away

Discernment requires time, and a stepping away from noise, complication, and all manner of opinions.
Madeleine L’Engle, in her poem, “I who live by words”,[2] writes:

I, who live by words, am wordless when
I try my words in prayer. All language turns
To silence. Prayer will take my words and then
Reveal their emptiness. The stilled voice learns
To hold its peace, to listen with the heart —
to silence that is joy, is adoration.
The self is shattered, all words torn apart
In this strange patterned time of contemplation
That, in time, breaks time, breaks words, breaks me,
And then, in silence, leaves me healed and mended.
I leave, returned to language, for I see
Through words, even when all words are ended.
I, who live by words, am wordless when
I turn me to the Word to pray. Amen.

We miss the shock of silence as we’re bombarded and besieged each day. We imbibe the world’s cacophonic deluge of words on a daily basis. Retreating from the pandemonium, and then returning, helps make sense of the commotion, mends the rents, heals the fissures, brings clarity.

Was Jesus loquacious? That description doesn’t seem to fit. What was written of him, though, is that he did so many wonderful deeds that “if every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”[3]

Not enough books in the world for those words! And yet, so many empty words in our world remain. We have so many choices in words—and perhaps we have decision fatigue. Yet, all we need are a simple few words to truly reach out to someone else.

“I am not a genius, I am just curious. I ask many questions. and when the answer is simple, then God is answering.”
― Albert Einstein

Maybe we should listen to the physicist who claims not to be a genius but curious, to a poet and writer, L’Engle who lives by words and finds herself wordless, and to the one who said “let your yes be yes and your no be no”.[4]

It seems so simple.




Image source: Unsplash –  Elnas Asadi

[1] https://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-friday-edition-1.4889158/the-lost-words-book-gives-new-life-to-nature-terms-cut-from-oxford-junior-dictionary-1.4889465

[2] https://friendsofsilence.net/quote/1992/10/i-who-live-words-am-wordless-when-i-try-my-words-prayer

[3] John 21:25 (NIV)

[4]Matthew 5:37 (NIV)

Prasanta Verma
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4 thoughts on “A Few Simple Words

  1. Madeleine L’Engle’s poem reminded me of Romans 8:26: “We do not know what to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” That verse has given me hope on more than one occasion! Thank you.

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