The Power of Words

“Yes, I will marry you!”
“I wish you had never been born.” 
“I’m sorry.”
“I love you.”
“I want a divorce.”
“I believe in you.”
     The above phrases are only words, correct?  Yet, think of the impact of each statement coming from someone you love.  King Solomon once said, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21).   Author Susan Scott says, “ . . .our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a time” (Fierce Conversations, xiii). Our words can lead to a marriage flourishing and filled with life or our words can wreck and ruin what should be one of the most precious and powerful relationships in our lives.  As one who periodically performs weddings, I am tempted to include the Miranda rights as a sober warning in the marriage ceremony.  The Miranda warning reads in part:  “You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say can and will be held against you . . .”  Author Nelson Searcy says that a person’s words serve “as tiny windows, allowing you to see what lies at the center of their being” (Tongue Pierced, 34). Jesus makes it clear that our words reveal our hearts.  Words are so important the Bible has over 400 verses that relate directly to words (Tongue Pierced, 35). Various authors have stated that it’s like almost all people are wearing an invisible sign that says “Encourage me.” 
      The four-way test used by Rotarians around the world is an excellent guide when it comes to how we speak.  Here it is:   
Is it true?
Is it fair to all concerned?
Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
     You may have to think long term with these questions or you would never confront anyone. However, most agree that healthy confrontation is allowed and helpful for a person’s ultimate maturity.  The four-way test starts us on the path of being an encourager, one who builds others up.  You never know what the person standing in front of you is facing; a little encouragement can radically transform an individual.  George Mathew Adams said, “Encouragement is oxygen to the soul” (Encouragement Changes Everything, 8) I know I have many moments in my own life when people have lifted me up when I was down.  You probably have the same.  I have thank you notes and encouraging notes I have kept for many years that occasionally I pull out and read.  Words, even from someone long deceased still have power in my life. Science backs up my personal experience.  Psychologist Henry H. Goddard connected children to a device to measure how they would respond to the words of others.  He found when tired children were encouraged, they experienced a surge in energy.  The opposite happened when they were criticized (Encouragement Changes Everything, John Maxwell, 37).   Of course, there are times when you have to discipline your children, but catch them doing right as often as possible and affirm those actions.  In addition, don’t just praise the actions of those around you, affirm who they are.  I love the scene in the film “The Help” in which the character Aibileen Clark transformed the neglected child in her care by telling her regularly: “You is kind.  You is smart.  You is important.”   None of us will control our tongues perfectly; all have spoken words we regret.  But today is a new day.  Offer someone an authentic compliment.  Express gratitude.  Speak life!

Pastor Derek Dickinson
Journey Christian Church