Words have power. Words that are articulated and those that are left unspoken. The ones that we long to hear and those that we’re afraid to speak. The ones that swim around in our minds and the ones that we believe are holding residence in the minds of others. Words can impact us in ways that we don’t understand. Words can hurt or heal. Words can build up or tear down. Words can incite violence or de-escalate tension.
We often underestimate the power of words, especially in a society where we can share our thoughts with the world in matter of seconds and a few taps of our thumbs. Sometimes we care more about finding the words that pack the most punch or rack up the most likes, not stopping to think about the mark those punches will leave behind. Other times, we hold back the words that need to be spoken most because we fear what they might cost us.
This past week, I reckoned with the power of words. It was not the words that were spoken but the ones I believed were lying beneath the surface. Those illusory words took root in my mind and spiraled into a tangled web causing me to question my value and my competence. They held me back from living into the potential of who I was created to be and what I’ve been given to do.
It was words that held me captive, and it was also words that set me free.
The deceptive words that were taunting me began to loosen their grip when I wrote them out and offered them to God. I felt less constricted when I spoke them out to my partner. And I broke free when I allowed words of affirmation and words of truth to shatter the chains of the lies.
Simultaneously, I watched as a young woman captivated the nation with words that flowed from her heart onto paper and then into our ears. In the same spot where untrue and hate-filled words had sparked violence just weeks before, a young poet rose with dignity and strength to share words of truth and grace. They were words that brought hope, words that reminded us of the power and opportunity that we have to help heal what has been broken.
Don’t underestimate the power that you hold in your tongue.
The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. – James 3:5
For better or worse, the God who spoke the world into being has given us that same power to create or destroy with our own words. We must understand both the incredible gift and the enormous responsibility that comes along with such dominion.
What amazing grace that God doesn’t leave us to fumble through it all alone but gives us his own word as our guide. The written Word, the Word personified in Jesus, and the words spoken directly to our hearts through the Holy Spirit – how often we take them for granted. Yet, it is precisely because of the power of our words that we need to let the word of God dwell richly within our hearts.
For the word of the Lord is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12
Perhaps before we open our mouths to speak or open our apps to type, we need to sit and let God’s word penetrate our hearts and reveal to us what is hidden inside. We need to let God’s words heal our wounds and guide us in truth. Maybe then we’ll know when it is necessary to bite our tongues and when it is beneficial to let the words pour out generously. Maybe then we’ll start to recognize the power that we have to speak life and light into a broken world.
Are there words that are keeping you trapped, that you long to break free from?
Are there words that you regret that you need to take responsibility for?
Are there words inside your heart that need to be spoken?