“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
As kids, we all heard this playground taunt and might have thought it was true. But as we grown-ups, we know different. The power of words is far greater than any stone.
With the power of well-chosen words, we are able to show love, inspire, encourage, uplift, change someone’s mind or opinion. But with poorly chosen words we can tear down, discourage, offend and hurt. The sting of hurtful words goes deep and will last long after physical wounds have healed.
How many words do we say each day?
Have you ever considered how many words you speak each day? According to reference.com, researchers at the University of Arizona found the average person speaks about 16,000 words per day with minimal differences between men and women.
In addition to spoken words, we also have written words on social media, websites, emails to colleagues and friends, and more.
With so many words used daily, we should consider the Bible’s warning in Proverbs.
“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains this lips is prudent.”Proverbs 10:19 (ESV)
We all speak many words each day. So often we don’t realize the impact of our words. Additionally, we need to recognize the more words we speak the more often we can sin with our words if we aren’t careful. A wise woman will limit her words.
How do the words we choose affect our daily lives?
Words shape our perception. Words give us understanding. Words provide meaning and help us make sense of the world and our lives.
The Power of Words
We all speak every day. Many times we speak without much thought given to the words we use.
How different could our lives be if we chose our words were more carefully? How could we use our words for good? How do we know the right words to use? The Bible gives us valuable guidance on how we should speak and how to make our words have a lasting impact. Let’s look at the power of our words and what the Bible says.
The Impact of Poorly Chosen Words
Words create anger or wrath
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up trouble.”Proverbs 15:1 (ESV)
How often have you been in an argument or upset and just shouted out the meanest and most hateful words that pop into your head?
As soon as you spoke the words, you knew that harsh words create more harsh and angry words.
The way to end harsh and angry words is to control your speech with a soft and thoughtful response. This verse doesn’t mean that if you speak soft words, then instantly anger will be disfused. It does mean soft words will begin the process to stop the anger.
Remember, we will never regret the angry words we don’t speak, but we often regret words spoken in anger without thought or self-control. Make it your habit to avoid hurting others with angry words.
Words can destroy a reputation
Words spoken in slander can destroy the reputation of another person. According to Bible Study Tools, slander is “an accusation maliciously uttered, with the purpose or effect of damaging the reputation of another. As a rule, it is a false charge…; but it may be a truth circulated insidiously and with a hostile purpose.”
When we gossip and use words to hurt the reputation of others, we are purposefully using our words to destroy another person. These words hurt others deeply. We should never purposefully speak evil of others.
In Proverbs, we are advised that speaking slander reveals the foolishness of our heart.
“The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool.”Proverbs 10:18 (ESV)
The ninth commandment states:
“You shall not bear a false witness against your neighbor.”Exodus 20:16 (ESV)
Making untrue statements or bearing a false witness against others will have negative consequences that can be avoided with well-chosen words.
Words can deceive
Have you ever been lied to? I mean really deceived. Perhaps a friend lied to you or you were making a major purchase like a car or a house and the salesperson lied to you about features or the quality of the product.
Sadly, lying has become a normal part of our everyday life. We even make lying acceptable by calling it a “white lie.” No, there is no such thing as a “white lie” or a good lie, all lies are dark and evil.
“Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.”Proverbs 12:22 (ESV)
Nothing good comes from telling a lie (not even trying to save a person’s feelings). The Bible tells us to speak the truth in love. When you start lying, you will have to continue lying to cover the first lie, then you have to tell a lie to cover your next lie until you have a web of lies you can’t even remember.
It’s better to not speak than tell a lie.
The worst part, once you become a liar and people recognize you are a liar, that will become your reputation. Your friends and family will not trust liars.
The Power of Well Chosen Words
Words should state facts and truth
The most basic use of words is to state facts, describe our reality or give information. The majority of our words each day are informational and factual.
Even when our words are informational and factual they are still powerful. We have the ability to describe the situation in a positive way or negative way. The words we choose give the listener a clear first impression. The adjectives and adverbs we choose to describe a situation will shape the feelings of our listeners. Our informational and factual words should be honest and truthful.
As we choose words, we should use truthful and factual words, not words that will manipulate the truth or deceive us.
Words Can Delight
When was the last time someone said something nice to you? Maybe it was a compliment. Maybe your hard work was recognized and appreciated. When others recognize us and praise us and our hard work, these are words that delight us. They make us feel good and improve our mental health.
“Gracious words are like honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”Proverbs 16:24 (ESV)
Kind words are like sweetness to our soul. We should use kind words and words that recognize others generously so we can bless and bring joy to the day.
Words Can Inspire & Encourage
Most of what we accomplish in life can be traced to the inspiring and encouraging words of other people. We should recognize the power of our words and how we can use use our words to inspire and encourage others.
“A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”Proverbs 15:4 (ESV)
Wouldn’t it be amazing to speak words so encouraging and inspiring other people said they were like a tree of life? So often we don’t realize or consider the power of words, not just at the moment they are spoken but the long-lasting impacts to build others up or tear them down.
As we have studied, words have the power to do great good or terrible harm to others. In James 3, he writes that the tongue is a small member, but difficult to control. He even compares that it is easier to train animals than to train and control the tongue. I give you one final warning before I close from the book of James:
“But no human can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it, we bless our Lord and Father, and with it, we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth, blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”James 3:8-10 (ESV)
Choose your words for the power of good and Glory of God today. Be silent when your words would be harmful to others.
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