Too often we underestimate the power of words. We throw them around without really thinking about the impact that they might have on us as speakers and on others as the recipients of what we say. In my work as a therapist, I have come to appreciate their power. Words have weight. Words have mood. Words are precious and lasting. Therefore, we have to make them count.
We have to hold ourselves accountable for our tongues as we know that our tongues hold the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21 NIV). Although this death might not be literal, the words we use certainly can bring death to the hearts and souls of others. I have seen countless individuals come my way for therapy because they need to recover and heal from the painful wounds made simply by words. But I have also seen great damage done to the individuals who have said these words. Hurtful words attack both the giver and the receiver, for “reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18 NIV).
Therefore, we must make a stand today to build up ourselves and others instead of tearing one other down. This starts by being more mindful about what we say and by taking the time to think our words through. We must weigh each word as though it were as precious as gold. At other times, we instead must choose silence, for, to paraphrase the American writer, Ambrose Bierce, to speak when we are angry can lead us to make “the best speech we will ever regret.” We must recognize that the words we have spoken have the power to reign over us. When angry or hurtful words remain unspoken, however, we have reign over them.
Finally, we must not forget the truth that the gift of a kind word will echo in the heart of its recipient and also will bring joy to its giver. Such a truth allows us to marvel at and understand more clearly the redemption found in apologies, especially those that are given freely. It also allows us to see that there is a transformative power at work among people who honor one other and who recognize that the words they speak can be like exquisite music to their souls.
In my work as a Christian therapist I strive to use this verse as a guiding light: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV). Therefore, let us together take a stand to encourage instead of tear down, to appreciate instead of blame, to praise instead of criticize, and to inspire instead of intimidate. And if we find one another doing otherwise, may we speak from a heart of love and kindness, always remembering the power of our words.