The Power of Words
We know that words have power. More than likely, everyone reading this post has come to a point in life where they felt just about as low as a person can get, and someone encouraged them and lifted them up. We know that a simple “I love you”, when said with sincerity, can mean a lot to people who cannot even begin to imagine how anyone could love them. We’ve probably all spoken words of friendship to someone before and knew that those words meant a lot to that person.
Makes you feel good, right? When you know that a simple word out of your mouth has helped another human being in some way or another, you feel happier, joyful, thankful that you could help.
But what about when the words you say are less than kind?
Just like that one word can give hope to someone who is in despair, can stop someone from ruining their future, can comfort someone in the face of tragedy…another word can lead to despair, a lost future, and tragedy for another person. The letter of St. James has the following to say on this subject:
“Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze. The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. This need not be so, my brothers. Does a spring gush forth from the same opening both pure and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, produce olives, or a grapevine figs? Neither can salt water yield fresh.” -James 3:5b-18
It doesn’t have to be words of hatred, either. Of course things like gossip and bullying are harmful to other people and should be guarded against, but there are other things as well. Things like cussing, for example. I’ll own up right now–I have a major issue with this. If I’m angry, you’d better stay out of my way unless you want to hear some new not-so-nice words coming out of my mouth (one syllable each, averaging around four letters). In fact, if I’m really ticked, it’s impressive (in a very bad way) how many cuss words I can properly fit into one sentence. What’s so bad about this? For one thing, it obviously isn’t appropriate. Aside from that, though, it just generally contributes to making other people around me flustered and angry, it may set the example for other people to think that it’s totally fine to do, and it just isn’t Christ-like at all.
Now, what can we do about controlling our tongues? Well, I think that the first thing we should do is stop and consider what we’re about to say. Is it kind? Necessary? Helpful? Or is it only going to cause hurt and bad feelings? I don’t know about you guys, but I do this first step pretty often and then just find it impossible to control myself in spite of that. So we also need to calm down and ask God to help us. There are two prayers in my other post for controlling the tongue. Try praying one–or both–of these each morning.
What we say may never hurt us personally, but our words do have the power to hurt other people. As Catholics, we believe that all people are children of God made in His image. Because of that Truth, we must try not to offend or hurt others in our actions and words.