Growing up with a speech impediment, I grew to understand the power of words. I have a speech impediment, a stutter, that doesn’t inhibit my ability to think but merely inhibits my mouth’s ability to keep up with my brain. Stuttering, especially during the formative years of middle and high school, tended to serve as an automatic disqualification for most conversations. Where most people could get the idea out and discuss it, that was simply not an option for me. I had one shot at words and was playing at a disadvantage. If I was given the chance to give words, I had to make it count. I had to use the words I could to, in one shot, deliver the meaning that I was intending.
Very early on, I learned that words had great power. I could either use them to build people up and encourage, or use them to demolish and destroy people. As a kid who got picked on and was generally angry and struggling with self-esteem, I picked the latter. I became very aware that the same words, from the jests and joking from others, could be used to cause reciprocal pain to other people. Tearing people down, talking down to them, pointing out things that need not be pointed out, those are the things that taught me the power of words, both from hearing them and receiving them. James warns us of the power of words.
Take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, 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. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. – James 3:5-6, NIV
Words have great power to do great good or great evil depending on how we use them. People can be driven to great deeds by the inspiring words of a coach before a play. Children and retreat inside themselves from the put down of a friend. Conflicts can rise and fall based on things people say and commitments people make. In the show, Doctor Who, the Doctor had chosen to retreat into solitude after the death of a companion. Those closest to him chose to protect him from the outside world, testing whoever wished to see him by giving them one word to convey their message. Through one word, Clara, the doctor’s future companion, would be able to sway the Doctor and spur him to action and out of his solitude and slump.
The power of words leads to one question; what are we doing with our words? Words have great power to either tear up or to destroy. We can choose how we express our words with the grace of God given to us. Wherever there is the temptation to tear a person down with your words, there is another opportunity to be a blessing to that same person.
We have all had those moments where all we needed was an encouraging word from a friend or even a stranger. Most of us have experienced that same thing as well, where someone encouraged us and that gave us the steam we needed to face the day and all the challenges that lie ahead. Speaking is a God-ordained moment, where the hand of God touches others lives through the words that we speak. Our faith can be displayed by what we say to others and how we speak of them and to them. Take the time to use your words and the power they hold to encourage a person today, to build up a person in need, and serve as a blessing for those you come into contact with.
Over the next few weeks, we are going to look at what the God says about words and how we can use them in our day to day lives and how God redeems, even our speech.
Questions for Thought What is the biggest struggle in using our words to display the power of God’s grace in our lives? What have you seen as a good reminder to use your words for building up others in your life? Leave a comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.