Sending Love, Light, or What-Have-You: When Loaded Words Become Too Heavy

My sister had her hip replaced this week, halfway across the country. After spending the morning thinking about her–“Is she going under, right at this moment? Have they cut yet?”–I emailed my brother-in-law for an update. Telling him how I’d been fretting was not hard. But signing off was.

“Sending love”? True, but not sufficient.

“Sending love and healing”? Sounds like wishful thinking. Healing doesn’t sound like it’s mine to send, much as I wish it were.

“Holding you guys in the light”? Yikes.  This is what Quakers say, and my sisters and I were raised in Quaker traditions. But our upbringing was more on the social-justice side of Quakerism than the spiritual, and no one in our family talks this way.

“Praying for healing”? Well. Yes. That is exactly what I’m doing. But there’s no way I’m going to say that to my sister, or almost anyone else, unless I know for sure that they’re comfortable with that language. And, sadly, many of us are not.

Why is this? Over a series of walks, I’ve been pondering the way the words “I’ll be praying for you” have, due to (in my opinion) misuse, been hijacked by connotations of self-righteousness and judgement. If, when hearing those words, I analyze the thoughts behind them, passing them through a filter of what I know about the person speaking to determine that that person’s faith lacks any sense of superiority or condemnation, THEN I can accept being “prayed for.” But I don’t want to put my sister and brother-in-law through that exhausting process.

My friend Beth says she’s decided to go ahead and use the words, and trust that people will understand where they’re coming from and how they’re meant. I aspire to that higher stage of spiritual confidence, but I’m not there yet.

(Orig. image courtesy Nathan Brunner, Pinterest)

(Orig. image courtesy Nathan Brunner, Pinterest)

So for now I stick with  “Abrazos.” Somehow the Spanish sounds less cutesy to me than “Hugs”–much as I love hugs in any language. But one of these days, I might shock my family by telling them they’re in my prayers.

Yikes.Yikes. Nope–not there yet.


How do you deal with the issue of loaded words when there’s no other way to say what you mean? I would love to hear your thoughts.