We were all lied to when we were children. One of the first little sayings that we learn is, “Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” This is a pure, unadulterated lie. Words are fraught with power. They have been that way since the beginning of time. It was through speaking that God created the universe and everything in it, including you and me. In John 1:1, Jesus is referred to as, “The Word.” This was to signify his role in creation and to speak to his might. Our words matter because they affect other people. They are not benign statements without consequence.
This was seen by what we saw shockingly play out at the Capitol Building yesterday. I have vowed to not get political on this site, and I will refrain from expressing very many of my thoughts on this situation. I will say this though, what happened there was because of what words were and weren’t chosen. Words can lead to violence and destruction if the speaker so wishes.
Words can also have a major impact on our deep, inner self. In the Pixar movie Soul(fantastic movie, by the way), there is a scene where we see into the mind of 22, who is one of the main characters. She has been paralyzed and broken. Once we enter her psyche, we find out why. It is because all that she hears are all the negative things that have been spoken to and about her. Her whole life, she has been told that she is a failure and is not enough. Even someone who cares about her has greatly contributed to her decimated self-image. The words spoken to her have become that little voice in her head, and it has nothing good to say about her.
Unfortunately, that is where a lot of us find ourselves often. The voice in our minds is not particularly nice. Brennan Manning writes in his book Ruthless Trust that most people are self-abusive. We constantly beat ourselves down. We have fallen into the lie that we are not good enough. These ideas were not originally ours, but were passed down to us by someone else. Somebody else’s voice has taken residency in our head and feeds us constant negativity. What’s worse is that we can be told how great we are, but that is often shouted down by a cruel conscious that has been devastated by the unkindness of others. I never have to try to convince someone that they’re sinful, but it is a struggle to get people to believe that God loves them. That, sadly, has become the reality in which we live.
What do we do about this? Firstly, we need to read and hear the words that God has spoken to us. The words that tell us that we are God’s children (1 John 3:1), that Christ will always be with us (Matthew 28:20), and that we cannot be separated from God’s love (Romans 8:39). These are the words that need to constantly swirl around our heads. They need to take permanent residence in our brains so that they can be much louder than any of the negative voices. What the Bible says about how God feels about us is eternal truth, and the disparaging statements that have been dispersed to us over the years are the lies. God said that you are enough, nothing else matters. Secondly, surround yourself with those who will be encouraging to you, those who will speak kindly and lovingly to you and will tell you how great you are even when you can’t accept it as truth. Slowly, the coldness of the past, hurtful words will melt away, and you’ll begin to believe them.
Finally, choose your words wisely. Be careful with what you say to and about people. James 3 tells us that our tongues are capable of creating great fires in life, fires that will consume those around us. We all need to speak love to one another. There is too much in this world to get us down for us to pile on with how we talk to each other. We need more words of affirmation and less words of damnation. We need to build each other up instead of tear each other down. We need to season our speech with kindness instead of malice. You never know when you will become the inner voice that people are hearing long after you walked away. Words have power for good and evil. Please, choose to use them for good.