Multi-Faith and Belief Chaplaincy, For All Faiths and None

What's the word for that?

This week's blog post is written by Associate Chaplain, Geoffrey Baines.

A green a yellow doodle above a grey stripe with the text: green will out or you can't keep a good talent down

When passion of feeling and technical brilliance come together, the beauty can be devastating and transfiguring.* (John O’Donohue)


What brings out the best in you? What brings out the worst? […] Can you change your posture so that situations you’re in bring out the best instead of the worst? Ideal situations are often rare – now more so than ever. But we can define “ideal situation” if we wish.** (Seth Godin)


In her compendium of untranslatable words from around the world Ella Frances Sanders includes tsundoku, a Japanese word for:

Leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with other unread books.^

I found myself reading and reflecting this morning on themes of flourishing through talents and environments.

With Spring breaking out all around, Sanders’ compendium caused me to wonder what the word might be for personal verdancy, when beauty breaks through the hard shell of our personal protection or the harsh demands from the other.

How about chlorostelńo: the ability to send forth or live our inner greenness into the most exposed and challenging parts of our lives?I’d love to hear your possibilities.

In writing about the colour of beauty, John O’Donohue proffers:

Green is the colour of growth, the colour of hope.*

It may only be a green shoot of life breaking through tarmac or concrete, but this speaks to us of what can be. If we are able to notice, this determined greenness is all around us.

In his delightful book about the hidden life of treesPeter Wohlleben reveals how the Autumn turning of leaves to red, gold and brown is the result of the tree withdrawing and storing its chlorophyll in its constituent parts, ready for Spring’s new growth.

This got me thinking about how we can be tempted, or sometimes forced, to hide away within ourselves the beauty of our particular greenness.

Rather than growth and hope, it turns into that horrible word potential.

Or worse, it is pushed down beneath the pressure of develop generally and fitting in:

We don’t spend a lot of time reflecting on our skills and talents, because we’ve been conditioned to be humble. We largely focus on our “areas for improvement” – the things we lack confidence and competency in, to the detriment of our gifts and our genius.^^

Humble is an interesting word.

In the way Bernadette Jiwa uses it here, it means having to be dishonest about ourselves.

It should really be about being accurate about who we are and what we can do, because when we are accurate and true then we know where and how we can grow.

It can also be related to the ego or False Self, or to the eco or True Self.

The ego is likely to tell us that we aren’t doing well enough, that we have to do better if we want to count, to be noticed.

The ego can be a tyrant, especially for those who had been told how clever and amazing they were in their earlier years.

The eco, though, is likely to draw us to what we are doing well, encouraging further development, showing how we have worked hard to improve and that further work will see even more growth.

Towards the kind of growth Jiwa imagines, it’s important to identify some steps; here are some that occurred to me this morning:

We need to notice the truth about ourselves in relation to our talents, values, energies – journaling out illustrations for these so you are engaging with details rather than generalities;

We need to spend time imagining how these may be re-expressed in the future: how, where, with whom;

We need to be ready to begin straight away: we don’t need anyone’s permission save our own: the right time is always now;

And we need to reflect: noticing how our talents, values and energies grow over time and just how we are changing as a result.

May the greenness of your beauty break through.

All staff and students are able to explore their "greenness" through dreamwhispering.


*From John O’Donohue’s Divine Beauty; **From Seth Godin’s blog: What bring out the best in you?; ^From Ella Frances Sander’s Lost in Translation; ^^From Bernadette Jiwa’s The Story of Telling blog: On Strengths.