The Incredible Power Your Words Have Over Others
Most of us Gen Xers (and older) remember the antiquated comeback to playground bullying that went something like “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
But is this just an innocent childhood song? Or can words be an impetus for pain?
They’ve made me feel like a prisoner
They’ve made me feel set free
They’ve made me feel like a criminal
Made me feel like a king
They’ve lifted my heart
To places I’d never been
And they’ve dragged me down
Back to where I began
Hawk Nelson’s song, Words, gives clear examples of the power that our words have upon others and ourselves. What have words done to you? How have they made you feel?
The words we hear and read can affect us more deeply than any physical force. They influence our thoughts and emotions, which in turn, manifest into something that we perceive with our physical senses. We’ve all been involved in conversations that have caused us to become physically hot with anger or cold with fear. We’ve had things said to us that made our heart skip a beat or feel like it was breaking. The pain from the effect of words can be long-lived or even last a lifetime.
In grade school, I was teased because of my natural resemblance to a bean-pole. I became self-conscious about it, and it took well into adulthood for me to become content, even happy, with the way I am.
Broken bones and ill health will eventually be restored, but words can have eternal consequences.
Conversely, we’ve experienced words that have lifted us up, made us feel good; our hearts and minds feel lighter. Positive words and encouragement make us feel welcome, loved, and appreciated. And these words too, can have a lasting effect.
The Power of Our Words
Words can build you up
Words can break you down
Start a fire in your heart or
Put it out
Our words connect us with other human beings. It’s how we communicate with each other. Written or spoken, the things we say significantly affect one another. A seemingly casual remark can make a lasting imprint. In addition, our words possess incredible power. History has shown us time and time again how words can shape a nation, begin and end wars, and turn families against each other.
On the other hand, history has also revealed how words can inspire entire communities, bring people together, create positive movements, and transform society for the better.
Let’s face it, there’s a lot of hostility here on good ol’ Earth. All one has to do is turn on the news to be bombarded with examples of how much damage words can cause. That’s why it’s essential to question the words of the most vocal who create and perpetuate hatred and adversity, and to counter that hate with our thoughtfully expressed writing and speaking.
“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.” — Eph 4:29 (NIV)
Speak Kindly to Yourself
What about the words we speak to ourselves? It turns out that what we tell ourselves is just as important as what we tell others. How often do you find yourself affirming others while criticizing yourself?
Do you constantly tell yourself that you’re too old/tired/out of shape for your dreams? Do you tell yourself you don’t have the time for the goals you want to accomplish? Or that you can’t change a bad habit even though you want to? Continuing to tell yourself those things will create that reality, and you’ll continue to be too old/tired/worn out.
Or do you look yourself in the mirror every morning and tell yourself how beautiful, loved, and cherished you are? Do you state that you can accomplish whatever you set out to? Those statements also have the power to create that reality.
Let’s Start Today
Let my words be life
Let my words be truth
I don’t wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You
What do your words point the world to? Do they point to an all-loving Higher power, Truth, and Compassion? Do they elevate others into becoming their best selves? Or do they point to judgement, criticism or hatred?
As purveyors of the written word, writers have extreme influence in this realm. Many writers begin writing in order to help others. To lift them up. To encourage them. To show them they not alone in their struggles.
As human beings, we’re meant to inspire and elevate each other.
But how exactly do we start?
Negativity is natural for many people. But with a little practice, we can change that attitude. A simple way to begin is to become aware of how often we complain throughout the day — often complaining comes naturally and we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Complaining drags us down as well as those around us.
Instead of complaining that your coffee is too cold, thank the person who made it for you. Instead of grumbling about the cold temperatures outside, be grateful that it’s sweater season. This “attitude of gratitude” will spill over into other areas of your life and your words will be spoken and written accordingly.
So let us speak to truth and compassion. Let’s not drag others down and criticize, or speak negatively toward others. We’re all hanging out on this planet together, so let’s let our spoken and written words reflect that.
Hawk Nelson says (sings) it best: