Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Power of Words

I've been thinking a lot lately about the power of words.  The bible tells us that "life and death is in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21).  When we get right down to it, the most powerful weapon ever created was the power of the tongue (words).  There are many referrals to the power of our tongue/words all throughout Proverbs, as well as in the book of James.

Our words can lift up and encourage or our words can tear-down and destroy.  Words are like a two-edged sword.  A two-edged sword can cut both ways: they can cut the person speaking them at the same time they are being used to 'cut' the one to whom they're being said.

We could get into a deep theological discussion on the power of words but the reason I've been thinking so much on the power of words is because someone I love dearly, is in a very similar situation as I was back several years ago.  The reminder of that situation/time, is bringing back the pain that can be caused by another's words.  And, of course, my heart is breaking for the person enduring this.

It took me many years to finally be able to say, "I was abused".  It wasn't so much to protect my abuser, as it was admitting a weakness in myself for allowing it to happen.

Words spoken in anger, are as damaging, if not more so than a physical attack.  I'm not trying to belittle physical abuse, not in any way, because all abuse is horrible and damaging.  Thankfully, I got out of my abusive situation before it became physical.  But I still bear the scars of the verbal, mental and emotional abuse I suffered.  A black eye will eventually heal and often no lasting signs remain.  Not so with verbal abuse.

The words that are hurled at you - that tear you down little-by-little, eroding your self-esteem never fully heal.  The words 'hit their mark' and instead of just causing one small wound, they "spider" out in a million different directions.  I often use the illustration of a crack in a windshield.  A stone hits the windshield and causes a small chip, but it doesn't end there.  The chip causes spider-like cracks to creep all across the windshield.  One small projectile, hitting one small spot, causing such wide spread damage.  Others see your outward appearance, but they don't see the inner battle scars - those little 'spider' like cracks that run all throughout a person.

Counseling helps you learn to cope with the effects and go on to lead some semblance of a normal life - I know, I went through counseling.  It did help.  Jesus did a better work in my life than any counselor could.  Because I'm human and live in a fallen world, I'm continually a work in progress and I'll never be totally restored this side of heaven.  I still have battles with the words that were used as to (try to) destroy me. They don't affect me the way they once did, mainly because Jesus has taught me several things about the power of words.

Let's read Matthew 15 for a little insight:  1 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
 3 Jesus replied, And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
   8 “‘These people honor me with their lips,
   but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain;
   their teachings are merely human rules.’”

 10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”
 12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”
 13 He replied, Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
 15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”
   16Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.

From this passage, we find that it's our words that make us unclean.  There is great power in our words.  Have you ever heard a conversation where one person ends up making the comment: "And you kiss your mother with that mouth?"  I've heard that a few times in my life. The words that come from our mouths that do harm come from a filthy heart.  We need to ask Jesus to make regular inspections of our heart, so that the words that we allow to come from our mouths don't come from a filthy heart condition.

We need to become very conscious of the words that we speak.  Did your mother ever tell you when you were growing up - "if you have nothing nice to say, it's best to not say anything" or "think before you speak" - we'd really be wise to take this advice.  I often have to say to myself: "Lord, keep one hand on my shoulder and the other over my mouth".

I never want to intentionally hurt another with my words....Lord this is my prayer: "Allow my words to always be used to build-up, edify, and encourage others. Let me speak the way You, Jesus, would speak."

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