I received an email recently from a fellow podcaster. He mentioned how he picks a word at the beginning of January to help him stay focused for the year. His 2022 word of the year was “celebrate.” For 2023 he chose “authentic.”

Apparently lots of people are choosing a word of the year for themselves. I googled the phrase “Word of the Year for 2023” and found 1,060,000,000 entries. Keep listening to hear my pick for word of the year for 2023 and what it could mean for you.

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Word of the Year for 2023

Some people like to pick a word for the year at the end of the year to summarize what life has been like for them over the past 12 months. The dictionary people at Merriam-Webster, for example, chose “gaslighting” as their word of the year for 2022. They say it has come to mean “the act or practice of grossly misleading someone, especially for a personal advantage.” The word has an interesting origin and a more robust definition, but we’ll have to save that for another episode.

Like my podcaster friend, though, I would rather come up with a word of the year at the beginning of the year, not at the end.

So my pick for word of the year for 2023 is “Read.”

Why “Read”?

Here’s why I picked this word, rather than any number of other worthwhile words. It starts with a quote I recently came across that I’ve found to be so insightful. It comes from William Nicholson, the playwright most famous for his play, Shadowlands, the story of C.S. Lewis and his relationship with Joy Gresham whom he eventually marries. Again that’s a subject for another podcast.

Be that as it may, Nicholson says

“We read to know we are not alone.”

I find this rather profound. It speaks to the issue of loneliness which plagues many of us, me included, and offers a remedy. We read to know we are not alone.

A text I read recently

Here is an example of something I read recently about someone’s experience that resonated with me, and reminded me I’m not alone. It’s a text I received that I’ve altered slightly to protect the privacy of a listener who wrote it. I’ll call her Emily. She writes

Well, I just listened to your Podcast 187, “Angels We Have Heard On High.” You asked if anyone wanted to share a Christmas Memory. You did have a deadline, and I missed it. However, I wanted to share with you what I discovered when I asked my husband James if he had a joyful Christmas memory that stood out in his mind. He thought and thought and couldn’t come up with one.

So now I understand why he has never been excited about Christmas in our 52 years of marriage. Has never done any Christmas shopping…didn’t participate in any decorating…I cannot remember getting a gift that he shopped for…and at work, he was known as the “grinch.” It caused more stress in our relationship which ultimately caused me to stop Christmas shopping, and I do very little decorating. So, thanks to you, John, I at least now understand “why.”

Greater appreciation of people comes from reading their story

I so identify with both people in this little story. Like, James. I can’t think of a joyful Christmas memory from my childhood. I have many as an adult, but none as a kid. But I also got the sense that James has no adult joyful memories of Christmas either. I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to not let the dysfunctional part of my past interfere with the joy of the present.

On the one hand, I felt encouraged by what I read in Emily’s text. I so easily could have been like her husband James, and her text reminded me of how blessed I am that God saved me from being stuck in my past. I wish the same would be true for James.

And at the same time, I feel sad for Emily because her husband hampers her Christmas experience, and sadness for the stress it has caused her. I admire people like Emily who choose to honor her marriage vows despite the conflicts and pain that arise from time to time. How many marriages do you know that have lasted 52 years?

The Word of the Year for me in 2023, “Read,” gives me a greater appreciation for the values and character of the people like Emily who cross my path. And it only happened because of something I read, namely her text.

A joyful email I read

Another podcast listener, Marilyn from Minnesota, has written to me before. This time she wrote to share a joyful Christmas memory, even though it came in after the Christmas deadline. But I’m going to share it anyway. I loved reading it, and I think you’ll love hearing it. It’s a story her mother told her. Marilyn writes,

My grandfather was born and raised in England where he was apprenticed as a “shipwright,” a finish carpenter on large ships. When he immigrated to the US at age 21, he settled in a place far from big ships. He became a “finish carpenter” in homes in northern Indiana. The Great Depression hit his business hard as people decided to save the money they had for necessities.

There was a lake near grandpa's home and he took a job in the winter cutting huge blocks of ice from the lake for use in refrigeration. During this most difficult financial year, there was no money to buy a real Christmas tree (the only option at that time).

On Christmas Eve, he was walking home after cutting ice on Cedar Lake. There it was, lying in a heap, a discarded Christmas tree, complete with tinsel.

Apparently, a family was heading to relatives elsewhere and didn't want to come home to a dried-up Christmas tree in their house. Grandpa took the tree home, set it up, and surprised his family the next morning with everything needed for a joyous celebration!

God is at work in the stories we read

Marilyn doesn’t mention “God” at all in her grandfather’s story, but can’t you see God’s hand in providing an unexpected Christmas tree at the last minute for this poor family? I would love to have been in the house on Christmas morning when everyone woke up to see that tinsel-laden Christmas tree. Imagine the joy that would have filled the room.

There are so many reasons why “read” is my vote for Word of The Year for 2023. One is that when we read stories of the lives of others, like the one Marilyn shared about her grandfather, we often see God at work. And when we see examples of God at work in the lives of others, it gives us hope that he is at work in our life as well. Reading her story about the Christmas tree reminds me of the verse in the Bible, John 5:17, where Jesus tells the Pharisees,

“My Father is always working, and so am I.”

So what does what you’ve heard today mean for YOU?

If my Word of the Year for 2023 (read) doesn’t resonate with you, what word does? You have a lot to choose from. If you see possibilities in read for 2023, what are you going to read?

Today I only talked about the benefits of reading someone’s text, and another person’s email. We haven’t gotten into the rewards that come from reading books, newspapers, blogs, magazines, or other forms of the written word.

I’ll share more about this in next week’s episode. But for now, what are you going to read so that you know you are not alone?

Here’s the main takeaway I hope you remember from today’s episode

“Read” is a good choice for Word of The Year for 2023. Reading what others experience connects us with people. Reading reminds us that we’re not alone in the struggles we face and that God is at work in them for our good.

Do you have a relationship question?

Would you like some input regarding a relationship issue? If so, go to JohnCertalic.com/question to record your question using your phone or computer. If you’d rather put your question in writing, just enter it in the Leave a Comment box at the bottom of the show notes.

I’ll do my best to answer your question in a future episode.


In closing, I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about today’s episode. Feel free to send me an email, or enter your thoughts in the “Leave a Comment” box at the end of the show notes. I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show to set aside time to read. Go to a library and check out a book or two. Visit a bookstore.

If you make “Read” your Word of the Year for 2023 it will help you experience the joy of relationships God desires for you. Because after all, You Were Made for This.

Well, that’s it for today. If there’s someone in your life you think might like to hear what you just heard, please forward this episode on to them. Scroll down to the bottom of the show notes and click on one of the options in the yellow “Share This” bar.

And don’t forget to spread a little relational sunshine around the people you meet this week. Spark some joy for them. Tell a few people about what you’re reading. And I’ll see you again next time. Goodbye for now.

Other episodes or resources related to today’s shows

139: Why Should I Listen to This Podcast?
021: The Most Important Relationship of All

Last week’s episode

191: Wanting the Joy of Christmas to Linger Awhile?

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