Words Matter

Words Matter

Have you ever really thought about how much words matter? Proverbs tell us that words can breathe life or death. Paul wrote in Ephesians “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.” [Chapter 4, verse 29] 

I don’t know about you but sometimes words spill out of my mouth like sand on the beach; you know when you are trying to build a sand castle… but the sand just keeps falling down. Instant regret. You can’t contain it no matter how hard you try. Sometimes I instantly regret them, other times, I wish I had said more [usually I’m wishing I said less… let’s be honest, I am a talker… the phrase “wrap it up” is constantly used in our home]. It is crazy to think how deep words can cut; they can do more irreparable damage than some man made weapons. Words have lasting effects. Physical wounds can heal, but words can live on in your memory forever. 

I think back to eighth grade. I wasn’t the super confident, well put together person I am today [HA]. I was “that girl”, desperately trying to fit in. Wearing my American Eagle polo shirt [obviously I had a “cami” underneath], flare jeans, paired with some Adidas three stripe sneakers and a blue beaded choker necklace, I walked to math class. You see, I wasn't in the “smart” math class; I confidently thought that my 1st, 2nd and 3rd quarter grades of a C would average out to a C+. As all the “smart” kids left the room, I stood in less of what you would call a line, and more of a cluster of “average” kids waiting to enter. Next to me stood a boy- a young man- a teenage guy if you will… who’s name I am not going to share… but for the sake of this story… we can just call him ‘boy'. This ‘boy’ looked down at me and said these words that are forever burned into my memory. “Ew, that’s nasty, why are you so hairy, why don’t you just shave your arms.” [You see dear friends, I came from a background of Italian and Eastern European. The adorable bleach blonde hair I was born with was offset by the darkest, longest black arm hair. Think of any super manly man, like a lumberjack… and then probably… add more hair. My own flesh and blood would joke that my arms resembled my aunt and uncle’s German Shepard] I remember the feeling like it was yesterday. I remember the pit in my stomach. I remember not being able to swallow. I remember feeling so small, walking into that math class, wishing I could just disappear. After a few minutes I asked to use a pass to go to the bathroom, and went directly to my locker to grab a hoodie and cover up what was such a nasty sight. And now my sweet friends…22 years later… I still shave my arms, every morning, sometimes twice a day. It isn’t pretty. But this is my life now. All because of a few words from a 13 year old boy on a random Tuesday in 8th grade outside math class. [Now my sweet six year old son describes my arms as prickly… It's a never ending cycle. It sure is a good thing he’s so cute]

You see…Words have power. They can destroy and create. They have the power to change someone’s life forever. [Even more drastically than shaving your arms twice a day] Proverbs 16:24 tells us that “kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” It is so incredibly fascinating to think that a life can be changed forever with as little as a single phrase, an uplifting word or an act of kindness. Charles Spurgeon said “I would go to the depths a hundred times to cheer a downcast spirit. It is good for me to have been afflicted, that I might know how to speak a word in season to one that is weary.” I think this is how the spiritual gift of Mercy comes into play. Sometimes the ability to sense hurt and respond to it with love and understanding can dramatically change the trajectory of someone's life. Joyce Meyer tells us that “Words are containers for power, you choose what kind of power they carry". Think of the power we have and the impact we can make if we become more intentional about encouraging with our words. The right words make all the difference and we have the power.

In his book The Four Agreements, don Miguel Ruiz shares four specific “agreements” based on ancient Toltec wisdom that have the power to create a life of freedom, love and true happiness. His very first “agreement” is Be Impeccable With Your Word.  In it he writes “The word is a force; it is the power you have to express and communicate, to think, and thereby to create the events in your life. You can speak. What other animal on the planet can speak? The word is the most powerful tool you have as a human; it is the tool of magic. But like a sword with two edges, your word can create the most beautiful dream, or your word can destroy everything around you.” The example he gives in his book lives rent free in my head. He writes…

“There was a woman, for example, who was intelligent and had a very good heart. She had a daughter whom she adored and loved very much. One night she came home from a very bad day at work, tired, full of emotional tension, and with a terrible headache. She wanted peace and quiet, but her daughter was singing and jumping happily. The daughter was unaware of how her mother was feeling; she was in her own world, in her own dream. She felt so wonderful, and she was jumping and singing louder and louder, expressing her joy and her love. She was singing so loud that it made her mother's headache even worse, and at a certain moment, the mother lost control. Angrily she looked at her beautiful little girl and said, "Shut up! You have an ugly voice. Can you just shut up!" The truth is that the mother's tolerance for any noise was nonexistent; it was not that the little girl's voice was ugly. But the daughter believed what her mother said, and in that moment she made an agreement with herself. After that she no longer sang, because she believed her voice was ugly and would bother anyone who heard it. She became shy at school, and if she was asked to sing, she refused. Even speaking to others became difficult for her. Everything changed in the little girl because of this new agreement: She believed she must repress her emotions in order to be accepted and loved.”

I think of this example whenever I lose my patience and snap… which if I am honest happens more than it should. I want those around me to know how much I love them and cherish them by the words I choose to use when I speak to them. I want them to feel loved, supported and valued. I think our words are so incredibly important… even more so with children and youth. It is my daily prayer that I will speak life into those around me, I will lift them up, I will encourage them and I will speak with understanding, love and grace…because words matter.

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