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Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Power of Words: Part 1

We all know the childhood rhyme of sticks and stones breaking bones and the powerlessness of words to hurt. But words do hurt and words do have power. In fact, they have tremendous power and impact.

Don’t believe me? Click on this link as a reminder of the power of the spoken word.

Maybe none of us will ever achieve the same degree of global impact with our own words as those echoed on the national mall more than 40 year ago.

However, each of us can certainly choose to negatively or positively impact our own lives and the lives of those around us with the syllables we breathe out each day.

Think back in your own life when someone you looked up to or respected offered you a word of praise, affirmation or validation. Those feelings of lightness, worth and justification you experienced back then helped make you who you are today.

At the same time, if you consider a time in your past when a friend or loved one spewed hurtful, harsh, hateful words at you – a nightfall of sorts instantly occurs within you. We’ve all experienced it and have been there in varying degrees.

Despite the shade or light we may have in our past, the critical point is the role that each of us now play every day as we load each of our words with either care or chaos. Then taking aim and speaking out to whoever might happen to be in our line of fire. It’s up to us to choose and that ancient truth stretches across the ages.

Words can kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit - you choose.”
Proverbs chapter 18, verse 21 (translation, The Message)

And we have to make that choice every day, in fact we make that choice every moment before we speak kindly or crossly. Personally, some days I get it right and other days I don’t.

How about you?


  1. As a Youth Group leader, we did an exercise with the kids in which they were each given a tube of toothpaste and ask to empty it onto a plate. The kids gleefully squeezed the contents into various designs, delighting in the ability to partake in something so silly. After all the tubes had been emptied, they looked up at us with smiling faces...and we asked them to put the toothpaste back into the tubes. Obviously thier expressions changed, first confusion, then almost panic at the impossibility of the task. In that moment, we explained that their words were like the toothpaste. So easy to release, but impossible to take back. It was a tangible way to remind them to be mindful of the words they choose to speak.

  2. I totally agree. Words are so powerful you need to use them carefully. I always try to stay positive and that helps, but sometimes anger and frustration bring out negativeness and then I regret the things I say later. For the most part I just plain love words...scrabble is my favorite game.

  3. I love that toothpaste idea!

  4. We are trying to teach our daughters this from a very young age. They know we always say, "Our words have power." They feel it from this young age when verbally hurt or lifted up by one another so it's the perfect early 'teachable moment' to explain it now.
    Brenda, I love the toothpaste idea too..I'm going to pass that idea along to our Youth Pastor.

  5. @Beeg, GREAT object lesson! Thanks for sharing, maybe I'll use it at my next executive media training session to convey to them the importance of their words. Thanks for elevating the discussion!!!

  6. @Tammy, you and my wife would get along famously! She loves all kinds of word games and word scrambles. Her favorite is Boggle, which I frankly find quite "boggling" to play, she beats me every time. But our family has a healthy respect for the words we choose and use.

  7. @Kim, I applaud your daily reminders to both the girls and me in this area. The lesson I'm continuing to learn from you is "Speaking with kindness." Not that I have attained perfection, but I press onward...

  8. I love all those word games, too. Kim, feel free to add me to your Face Book friend's list if you ever want a new word game friend :o) I usually have about 20 different games going all at once with a variety of friends. That way whenever I log in it's always my turn in something or another, lol.

  9. We did an exercise with confetti when the kids were little. Outside we released it all, then they were told to pick up all the pieces. The moral was similar. Words are easy to release, but they also travel from the person we talked to, to others. It's impossible to gather wrong or hurtful information that has landed where we can't see it. Although, it's good to correct what we can! I agree with everyone, easy to have good intentions, difficult to always live out.

  10. @Nan, another great example - thanks for sharing it! I think your point about good intentions and sub-par execution is spot on. As always, thanks for taking the time to comment here!

  11. What a true statement / thought. No matter WHAT it is that we say, it impacts someone either negatively or positively - and that choice (whether to be positive or negative) is ours. That really is a powerful thought. We teach our children the same thing - and to try not to say anything to anyone else that you would not feel good about having said to you. It all boils down to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It stands true with words as well.

  12. @Laura, great point about the direct link between our words and our actions! Deeds usually follow words - so it's critically important that we choose the right words to ensure the right action! Thanks for contributing to the dialogue!