The Power of Words

Napoleon once remarked that “four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.” Indeed, words are powerful. I always wondered who said that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Whoever they were, they were wrong. Words may not break bones, but they can break someone’s spirit. Of course, they can lift someone’s spirit as well. Words have the power to arouse strong emotions in us–emotions of joy or sorrow, anger or mercy, love or hate. Just adding a single word to a sentence can change the meaning and consequence of that sentence. Take “but” for example. When a loved one tells us “I love you” we are filled with joy. However, “I love you, but…” leaves us fearful and worried about the security of our relationship with them. When a friend says, “I like your shirt” we feel good, maybe even more confident. However, if they say “I like your shirt, but…” we suddenly become self-conscious and worried, not only about our shirt but our overall appearance. And, we all hate to hear someone respond to our world changing idea by saying “Yeah, but…”

Yes, words are powerful. Our words can honor or dishonor those who hear us. They can heal the spirit or crush the spirit. Honoring words build others up. Dishonoring words tear others down. “Honey, I really appreciate all your work around the house” honors; “Honey, it’s about time you did something around here” does not. Telling our children “You didn’t put your clothes away yet-when do you plan to do it” honors them. Telling them “You are such a slob; you never put your clothes away” dishonors them with name-calling and character assassination. Constructive criticism given in love honors; harsh criticism shouted in anger dishonors. Encouraging words honor. Compliments honor. Polite words, like “thank you,” “please,” or “your welcome,” honor. Rude words dishonor.

Tim Hawkins’ satirical song, “Things You Don’t Say to Your Wife,” (click on picture) humorously describes many dishonoring statements a man might say to his wife. It’s a funny song. Have a good laugh as you listen. But, when the music ends, consider…do your words honor or dishonor your family?

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