I’m one of those people who revel in words. I enjoy a beautiful sentence, I’m a collector of quotes, and I’ll choose a good book over most activities.
Plus, I’m certain “words of affirmation” is my top love language (Thank you, Gary Chapman).
So it isn’t a stretch for me to chew on this idea of words. But this isn’t everyone’s story. Some folks don’t think much about it at face value, and that’s okay. Yet, we can’t get around how much weight our words hold.
What is it about words that can ignite us or strike us down? Why is there such consequence to what we say?
Much of what I do in the counseling room has roots in words that were not stewarded well. Possibly someone was careless or shaming with their comments; a parent who did not recognize how deeply their criticisms were felt. Other times, folks grieve words said in anger or difficult places. These painful wounds can wrap themselves around a person’s identity and attempt to extinguish their joy, self-efficacy, purpose, and hope.
Alternately, words can light a bonfire of potential in others.
It is beautiful to watch people lean into the reality that they are (or at least consider that they are) the Imago Dei; image bearers of God. Even with failure, even with imperfection, and even with pain—they are beautifully crafted to reflect the likeness of their maker. Each and every one of us carry this around with us.
I have watched folks stand taller after they ingest hope, encouragement, and helpful critique. I have seen little girls raise their eyes up and begin to verbalize their weight doesn't define their worth. I have seen women begin to claim their innate value.
This is no less than amazing.
And so, yes, words matter— and how we say those words matter.
It appears purposeful God allowed words to have significance. Even God himself modeled this for us when He used words to speak creation into existence (Genesis 3). And then later, the author of Proverbs states:
"The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit" -Proverbs 18:21, NIV
Death and Life—this is a serious claim. And yet, we see again and again the power of our words in our culture, our homes, and in ourselves.
And so today, may I challenge you?
May I ask you to notice the words that come from your mouth and whether you’re using them to fan a flame or extinguish it in others (or yourself)?
When the difficult person at your work does that thing again? When the election goes differently than you hoped? When your child throws a full blown tantrum at the grocery store? When your spouse doesn’t pay attention when you’re talking?
Or maybe, even when you look at yourself in the mirror; when the clothes don’t hang like you want them to? Could you speak words of life then?
My hope for you today is you would notice these intersections between “death and life." And in those moments, I pray you could offer the benefit of a pause, to feel the weight of those words on your tongue.
Post adapted from archives.