Just seven words.

Khalil Gibran once said that people will never understand one another unless language is reduced to seven words. What would your seven words be?

  1. Hello
  2. Help/Danger
  3. Believe
  4. Peace
  5. Friend
  6. Forgive
  7. Always

I think that the most basic of words — yes, no, love, etcetera, can be conveyed without actual words. So when I chose these seven words, I was trying to think of words that need more than expressions to describe them.  The word love is meaningless without the feeling behind it. If you love someone you shouldn’t have to tell them — they will know by your actions and by your devotion the depth of your feelings. The phrase “I love you” is almost a call-and-response phrase — you expect the other person to respond in kind. I tell my boyfriend that I love him all the time, and he tells me the same, but I really know that he loves me by the way he treats me, the way he touches me, and the way he looks at me. None of those actions need words.

Another word that I pondered putting on the list — but decided to exclude — is the word “goodbye”. It’s such a sad word, and I can’t think of a single person that loves to say goodbye.

Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.

So let me explain why I chose the words I did:

The first, Hello, seems to also be one of those words that can be conveyed by body language. However if you delve deeper the word is more than a greeting — it’s an invitation. It’s a call-and-response as well, but with a stranger. By saying hello, you are extending a welcome that they can respond to in kind.

The second, Help/Danger is self explanatory. If you need help, or need to warn someone of pending danger, it’s much easier to have a word for this than using body language to explain the situation. The word is a call to action.

Believe could also be Trust. This is a word that cannot be conveyed by body language. Sometimes life requires you to take a leap of faith.

Peace. The opposite of a call to action, this word can serve to diffuse situations. It can also be used to intone that you mean no harm, or as a plea to dissuade hostility.

Friend is a word used to describe a relationship outside of sexual or family relations. A definition of bonded companions, confidantes, or play-fellows. Friendships are a basis for small communities as well. Humans are social animals, and need those relationships to thrive. Having a word for such a thing is important, because there is a difference between someone you are acquainted with, and someone who is a friend. It’s important to be able to define that difference.

Forgive, because sometimes forgiveness is required, whether you are asking for it or giving it. I thought about including a word for sorry or remorse, but some languages do not even have the word sorry, because one should never have to apologize. You can show remorse with your actions and beg forgiveness from someone you’ve wronged. Whether or not you apologize is irrelevant, because as they say: “Actions speak louder than words.”

And finally, Always. In my personal opinion, always is one of the most powerful words in any language. Always transcends all times and all barriers, on all occasions, come what mayAlways is a promise, a measurement, a consistency, an infallibility, without exception. You can always be a friend, always believe, always forgive. Beautiful in its simplicity and complexity and scope, always is my favorite word on this list.