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The Power of Words
When I was in the seventh grade I was often bullied for my size and stature. At 4’11.5,” all the kids were much larger and bigger than me. Now at 5’6,” but just as small, I look back to those days with sorrow in my heart.
I remember the day like yesterday.
Racing from the first floor of the junior high to the third took all I had in me. Brushing arms with other students and running up the stairs, I was petrified of being late. I never wanted to be scolded by a teacher, and I never wanted to be anything less than perfect.
But on a cool October afternoon, my daily flight up the stairs was blocked. Just as I stumbled to the top, a very tall girl clouded my view.
“What are you doing, elf?” Her voice mocked.
“What?” My lips quivered.
“You are such a puny elf,” She laughed, tossing her mane-thick hair behind her rounded shoulders and the possé assisting her.
“Well, you are,” My voice began.
“I am what?” She questioned.
“You are to have a nice day,” I resounded. Defeated, broken, and dashing to my class from around her tall frame just seconds before the late bell rang.
Asking to go to the bathroom, I later wept in the stalls when I should have been in class.
The Truth About Words
All my life I had been told that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words would never hurt me,” but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
It wasn’t for me, and it wasn’t for southern author Amanda Seibert, either.
The power of words matters, and in my recent interview with Seibert, it is clear that not only our thoughts, but how we are spoken to impact our mental health.
In her newest book, “Mama, Sing my Song,” Seibert explains the power of music and speaking affirming words over your kids. While I am a twenty-six-year-old young adult, I am an advocate for this children’s book. Not only for children but for every soul that has ever been hurt by the influence of words.
Truth and Life
As a mother, Seibert wrote, “Mama, Sing my Song,” from a deep well within her heart. Believing that every child is uniquely created by God, she claims that “the words we speak over our little ones can shape them for years to come, and that song is one of the most meaningful ways to touch a life.”
Combining God’s truth, Words of Life, and music, the power of words is found numerous times in the Scriptures.
Proverbs 18:21 notes, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Proverbs 18:21, English Standard Version).
Ephesians 4:29 adds, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29, English Standard Version).
Matthew 12:36 reminds, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,” (Matthew 12:36, English Standard Version).
Hebrews 4:12 reaffirms, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, English Standard Version).
The list goes on and on. And it is evident that the words we speak hold great power. So much power that we will be held accountable for every word we’ve ever said.
To think that God knows every word before it is ever spoken overwhelms me. I cannot fathom how the living Word lives in me, yet so many of us fail to represent the Word with our words every single day.
How Do You Use Your Words?
I was not exempt from facing hurtful words as a child, and I have not been exempt from them as a young adult.
I have not always spoken with the Word of light within me, but rather the words of this world that bring pain (even when I don’t mean to do so).
But I have learned over the years that young or old, spoken or kept in my mind, our words have such power. Such strength and might. Or such pain and heartbreak.
As Seibert writes in the pages of her songs, “My hope is that the truths of this book will sink deep into many young hearts and that years down the
road as our kids make big decisions and wrestle with who our culture says they should be, that this song will be stuck in their heads in the most wonderful way– always reminding them of who they are and how much they are loved.”
I believe that God, our Creator and the Father of all words has a similar mission and mindset for all of us today:
That our words will be gracious.
That our words will be kind.
That our words will bring healing to the hurting soul and life to the broken.
That our words will speak life.
That our words will defeat death.
That our words will shout louder in the face of opposition.
That our words will represent the Word of Life to a world in desperate need of Him.
As Colossians 4:6 pens, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person”(Colossians 4:6, English Standard Version).
Today, if I could encourage you in your words, it would be to let the Word of life speak through you. And how do we do that? By thinking before we speak, listening before we speak, and knowing who we are before we speak.
Thinking Before We Speak
Psalm 119:105 pens these words: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105, English Standard Version).
If God’s Word is within us and is to guide and direct us, we must think before we speak.
In the example I shared from childhood, everything in me wanted to call my bully a giant. She called me an elf, after all! But the truth of the matter was, me calling her a giant would make me just as evil as her. And we do not overcome evil with evil; we overcome evil with good.
There will be times in this life that you want to react without thinking. Your spouse will hurt you, friends will say things they shouldn’t have, and your parents will tick you off. But Jesus tells us to think before we speak.
For we cannot hear the Word and hide it within us if what comes out is far from Him.
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22, English Standard Version).
Listening Before We Speak
Almost more challenging than thinking before we speak is listening before we speak.
While we might be challenged to stay mute and sulk in our minds, Jesus calls us to listen to those who persecute us or say harsh words. Not because they are right or we are validating what they are saying, but because listening to hear and not respond are two different things.
The best way to pour kerosene on words that have hurt you is to kill them with kindness. This is why Solomon says in Proverbs 25:21-22., “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Proverbs 25:21-22, New International Version).
To hear others’ words when they hurt us is painful. It penetrates the skin and marrow to the bone. But as Seibert notes, “affirming words only matter if they are also true,” and the same goes for hurtful sayings. If it isn’t true, know that what God thinks of you matters more than their opinions.
Knowing Who We Are Before We Speak
If we know who we are in Christ, it will be easier for us to think and listen before we speak because we trust in whom we belong. It is not that we won’t hear their words or that they won’t hurt us, but if we find our identity in someone who knows us, they won’t really matter.
Don’t get me wrong. Knowing who we are in Jesus is not easy. It is not easy to look in the mirror and love what you see or remember that Jesus says you are perfect and loved when those around you tell you exactly the opposite. We live in a painful and broken world.
But in John 1, Jesus reminds us that He is the Word of God, the Word of Life, and that Word of life created you and me. The Word we keep in our hearts is not only powerful enough to transform our view of ourselves but those around us.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:1-5, English Standard Version).
At the end of the day, the Word became flesh and knew what it was like to face the power of words. Even the Word Himself faced blasphemous words on a daily basis. But that Word died on a cross despite what the words of others said because He knew what the Word of His Father promised Him. He kept His vows to the Father, and the Father kept His vow to Him.
He keeps the same with us today.