In the past few weeks I have read and reviewed several books with a theme of looking at the impact and power of words. When I see several newly released books looking at this topic, it causes me to reflect on what the Lord is seeking to amplify for us as He highlights a topic.
Too often despite our somehow knowing the importance of words, we use them casually without thought or even sometimes care about how they will impact the hearer of those words whether in oral or written form.
Perhaps we forget the wisdom of Proverbs 18:21 (TPT):
“Your words are so powerful that they will kill or give life, and the talkative person will reap the consequences.”
Proverbs speak often about the power and impact of words. Look at what Proverbs 18:4 (AMP) shows us:
“The words of a man’s mouth are like deep waters [copious and difficult to fathom]; the fountain of [mature, godly] wisdom is like a bubbling stream [sparkling, fresh, pure, and life-giving].”
Our words can crush a spirit or encourage it even if we are not specifically speaking about spiritual things. Do we really embrace what Debbie Kitterman calls “a lifestyle of encouragement” in her recent book?
Words once spoken cannot be erased.
Whatever we meant or thought we were saying, once our words leave our mouth, pen, or keyboard they create an impact. If we discover they have hurt or caused misunderstanding, we can clarify and even seek forgiveness. But the sad truth is, the original words are often not forgotten even if forgiveness is given and understanding gained.
I am guessing that many of you can recall words that were spoken to you years ago. Some may have been a balm to your heart and others left a scar that lingers even if the wound was healed.
It can be easy to forget that the words we use may be defined differently by the hearer due to previous experience, culture, or age. No matter what a dictionary may say, the meaning we have within us may not be the same as that of the hearer or reader. Of course, the dictionary is also updated as culture and time alters the meaning of words. And some words disappear from use over time.
Words are like fire.
Fire can destroy or it can warm.
It can create light or shroud with black clouds and ash.
Jonathan Merritt makes reference to this in his latest book:
“Words impact our emotions and influence the paths we pursue. Whoever created the famous line about sticks and stones must never have been bullied. In our most vulnerable moments, the words spoken to us, about us, and over us can pulverize our souls until we drown in tears. Words can snap a human in two without spilling blood.”
We might be tempted to think that the way to resolve this problem is simply not to speak (or write) lest we hurt, harm, sow misunderstanding, or some other unintended thing. But the truth is that the lack of words spoken to, about, or over us in positive ways is essential as well.
God meant for us to speak. His first command to Adam was to create a vocabulary of words to name the animals. It is, in fact, our ability to speak that sets us apart in all of His creation.
Consider this quote from Merritt’s book:
“Alfred Wallace, a friend of Darwin’s who may have been the first to actually articulate evolutionary theory, noted that the brain’s ability to reason and speak was so advanced beyond the needs of human survival that natural selection was inadequate to account for it.”
In other words, language and our capacity to create and speak language stands in opposition to Darwin’s theory and refutes it.
Words are a means of relationship with God and one another.
It is little wonder that Satan would desire to use words to divide, confuse, and discourage us. He whispers such words to us and he also tempts us to use words in ways that accomplish his ends…sometimes without even realizing it.
Scripture reminds us of the importance of encouraging one another.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as it fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29 (ESV)
How those words to encourage are received will be influenced by whether our actions match them. Words (even those said with care) without matching actions will leave the receiver believing the actions more than the words.
Our actions reveal more of what we carry in our hearts. They are harder to disguise than the words we might choose to say.
Our words reflect who we are, but more importantly…they reflect Him.