The Power of Words

Have you noticed how easily we let words escape our mouths before thinking about how they affect others? This applies to social media too. How often have we pressed “send” or “post” only to receive comments from friends expressing misunderstanding or hurt? I know we have all felt horrified hearing of children who have chosen to end their lives because of online bullying. Words can have an extremely powerful impact on us. We need to stop and take better account of what we say and carefully consider its effect on others.

My Own Words

I was in southern California on a business trip a few years back and ran into a former student. We had initially met in Guatemala while my wife and I were teaching at an international school there. Ramsey is the son of a businessman who moved his family all over the globe. He landed at our school for the second half of his senior year. I think ours may have been the 16th school he attended.

He asked me if I remembered chatting with him at the end of an all-night senior event in our meet-up. Sadly, I didn’t and apologized to him. Ramsey then shared with me what he remembered. We were sitting outside the gym in the early morning, hoping to get a glimpse of Mercury before the sunrise. He had shared how challenging life had been for him being so transient. “Do you remember what you told me?” he asked. “I’m sorry, I don’t,” I replied again.

“You told me that there was purpose in the process. I have held onto those words, and they have helped get me through many difficult times since. Thank you,” Ramsey commented.

Speaking Before Thinking

I felt humbled that God would use me to speak into the life of a young man whom I barely knew. Hearing his story also made me wonder how many times I had carelessly said things to others that may have had the opposite effect. Speaking before thinking is a personal weakness. Rarely does it end up positively, as this story did.

James, Jesus’ brother, gave his readers this advice. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry …” in chapter 1, verse 19 of his letter. It’s not that we shouldn’t speak at all, as in confronting each other in love when necessary. Speaking, though, should be carefully considered and done so after listening well.

Words have power in our lives and the lives of those around us to shape us, uplifting us or tearing us down. If we are to love each other as Jesus commanded us to do, we need to consider what we intend to say before we say it!

“May the words of our mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

Psalm 19:14 NIV

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