Words. Each day, we use thousands of them in dozens of situations and conversations. We relate them to our family; we speak them at work, and we strike a conversation with a complete stranger or reply to our noisy neighbor. We ask a question of our child’s teacher or patiently answer your seven-year-old child’s inquiry for the sixth time. And in addition to words that roll off our lips, we have the ones we type with our fingertips- in email, text, blog comments, or social media.
One thing is certain when it comes to our words; they are powerful and have consequences. They can encourage or embitter, bless or badger, build up or break down. “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Prov.18:21). Many times, my words have been less than lovely, bringing about guilt and causing regret or even ushering the end of a relationship. In fact, as I examined my life a few years ago, I observed that I could tether almost every tense or fractured connection I’d had back to something I said.
As God began to deal with me about the way I used my words, I learned to apply the vast advice the bible has for us about how we should and should not- speak. I have learned something in my life-relationships living on this earth; words are strong, and they have values.
Words have always set events into motion. Often what we have read about in our history books or experienced in our own lives came about because of someone’s speech. Combative words have sparked wars, bringing about death and destruction. Soothing words have calmed the soul, quiet the mind and heart, and prevented potentially volatile situations from escalating and producing fire. Encouraging words have presented bravery and empowered doubting souls to accomplish what they never dreamed possible. Loving words have birthed relationships and bonded soul mates.
Can you think back on your own life and find evidence of the power and lasting impact of words someone said either to you or about you? I know I can. Theses phrases echo in the chamber of my mind and recall for me either pain and sorrow or love and inspiration.
I can remember a time in my teenage years when my dad said to me, “Photography will not amount to any money in life. Women are not meant to be photographers; they are intended to work in the office“. I was 12, and my heartfelt crushed. I have been studying photography since the age of 7; I had my first cannon at age 9. It was a gift from my godfather; I designed my own darkroom in a closet that we didn’t use in the living room. My mom was my cheerleader, my motivator, encouraging me that women can do anything.
My father’s words burned in my heart for many years. I started to believe I wasn’t good enough to be a photographer, that I had to do what everyone else was doing. It was, indeed, a changing point in my life. In many ways, my reflection on myself was smeared. For many years, I locked my passion and love of photography and hid them from the world.
Life has a way of showing you that you will encounter people coming into your world that will forever change your life. I called them angels from heaven or guides, helping you navigate life’s hurdles. I had many throughout my life, from teachers to family members, to friends and strangers- all encouraging me, inspiring me to see the real gifts I already had inside. Their words would impact me and forever change the way I looked at life. The words were embraced and embedded in my soul.
Yes, words are powerful, and they have consequences. The outcomes may be stellar or sorrow. They may be surprising or awful. They may make an impact on our lives for the better or transform souls for the worse.
Words are like superglue. Remember the old childhood song, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”? What a lie! We may have felt a tad better responding to our playground enemies with this chant, but we knew better. The truth is that bruises fade, and some bones eventually heal, but words stick. And not just sorta hold, they cling like the creamy white school glue we used in 1st. Grade. They are more like superglue, nearly permanent and painful to peel off.
This week, think about how words influence your life. Before you lash out at someone in anger or drip a little sarcasm from your lips, remind yourself that your words have not only power for good and evil, they also have obstructive energy.
We have a choice. Choose wisely. Don’t let words tumble off your tongue hastily or flippantly. Select your speech shrewdly, craft your emails, texts, and social media post and comments with care. A moment of caution now can save boatloads of misunderstanding and pain later. Be conscientious, not careless. Impart life; don’t dole out death.
“Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out.” ~Diadel Kimberlee