The Power of Words

Aaron Stockwell Wisman
January 24 2024

By Aaron Stockwell Wisman

“Let’s face it: some people have a way with words, and other people...uh, not have way.”
—Steve Martin

The window seat in the last row is objectively the worst seat on any airplane. It would probably make any kind, saintly person cranky. But that’s where my wife and I were one Friday, on our way to Texas: I in the middle seat, Lizzie in the aisle seat, and some other guy in the window seat.

As I was trying to accommodate my seatmate’s “manspreading” early on in the flight, I glanced down at the phone he was holding and saw his response to a family member who had texted, “Who is sitting next to you?”

His response was, “Some overweight guy…He is continuously sighing.” I felt so small when I read that. Even though I’ve read all about Fat liberation theology and how diet culture is b*s* and all bodies are good and amazing bodies, it took one little comment that I wasn’t even supposed to see to wreck my mood for a bit. My weight and my breathing patterns are the least interesting thing about me.

It can be tough to get out of that negative space, especially when those words were said about me, in cramped confines, by someone I didn’t know. Words that I wasn’t supposed to even see.

Two days later—Sunday morning—I wanted to worship at my colleague Dan’s church. He’s a UCC minister; one of the best interfaith clergy colleagues I’ve had. I was visiting for the building dedication of the congregation I once served and didn’t know when I’d be able to visit again. At one point in worship he said, “I don’t want to put you on the spot, but I just want to introduce my friend Rev. Aaron. He served the UU church here for a while and now he’s visiting from Massachusetts. Thanks for being here, buddy. A beautiful child of God.”

To hear these words, spoken in sacred space by a dear friend, and shared with the rest of the congregation present was so powerful. I felt like my soul and heart were so big.

Flying home that afternoon, I wondered to myself what voice I try to be in the world. It’s amazing the power our words can have.

Prayer

May the voices that call you “beloved” ring more loudly than the voices that call you anything less than that. May the words that I speak remind others that they, too, are beloved.