“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” – Henry James
I have been trying to come up with a creative introduction to this but have not had any luck, so we’re diving right into the deep end.
I’ve been thinking and learning a lot about the power of our words. I have been learning that they all are either contributing goodness to the world, or they are like little knives or poofs of poison being released into the atmosphere. What if we could see, tangibly, the character of our words as they left our lips? They are either adding life or bringing death. What if we viewed them as having an impact — like second hand smoke, or the smell of clean laundry? What if we understood the weight of them, the urgency of their potential?
When we wield our words with little thought or concern for their potential impact, we are like a blind man swinging a sword in a crowd. We have no idea what potential hurt we may inflict. And, I am realizing, it all comes back to our view of ourselves.
Here is a theory: If I do not believe that I matter, I most definitely will not believe my words matter. And when I do not believe my words matter, I can cause all kinds of harm.
Do you see the irony? Our false belief about our impact is actually what makes us have an impact — but probably not the one we want. When we loosely speak with no concept of the weight of our words, we spew hurt and pain and leave a war zone in our wake.
On the other, happier, hand, when we realize that our presence here on this earth matters — that it makes a cosmic and eternal difference — we will not take (or give) our words so lightly. We will start to understand that our words can build or break. That they can contribute to someone’s life or they can ruin it. They can hurt or they can heal.
We all know the way someone’s words can hurt us. Unless you have lived under a rock (and even then), you have probably felt the pain of unfiltered, loosely shared words. So we can all agree that they hold power.
It stands to reason that if our words have the potential to hurt, they also must have the potential to heal. Anything that can cause pain must also be capable of bringing life. We just don’t actually believe we matter, and this makes all the difference. We do not believe our presence at the table matters — like someone else could be there in our place and it would be just as good (or maybe even better). That simply is not true. Only you can bring you to the table. Only you have your unique view on life. Your presence matters, and your words matter. We talk often about how important it is to know our worth, but the reality is that it influences everything and everyone in our lives.
Scripture tells us that the tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). Our carelessness with our words comes from a misunderstanding of the weight of them. We all know the stupid adage: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Anyone who has interacted with another human can explain that this is an incredibly unhelpful mantra. I know when my words are hurting or helping.
All of this is the root of why people are so insanely mean online. Twitter is the embodiment of people not understanding the weight of their words, even when you can only share so many of them. You’d think the word limit might make us think more about what we say, but it seems to be the opposite. We hide behind a screen, forget the humanity of the person on the other side, and wield our words ruthlessly with no concept of the pain we can inflict. We create aisles and divisions with our tongues.
Yet I find myself often being stingy with my kindness. Why? We are literally rich with words. We have no shortage of them. We are impacted yet again with the scarcity mentality that if we share good words with someone else — there will be less for us. Praise Jesus, that simply isn’t true.
If we want to create a better world,
we can start with our words.
I have been humbled realizing the weight of my words. Realizing that they matter and can influence is an honor and a responsibility — one that we all carry. If we want to create a better world, we can start with our words. I have lived many days and years not stewarding my words well, and I know it has caused harm.
So some questions for us today: In what ways are you assuming your presence doesn’t matter? And where are your words wielding more power than you realize? Where can you be more responsible and more generous with your speech?