The Power of Words
Did you know there are 273,000 headwords in the Oxford Dictionary; 171,476 of them being in current use, 47,156 being obsolete words and around 9,500 derivative words included as subentries? This brings to question, what words are we using? Is there power in words? Let’s explore this thought.
As a child, I remember hearing, “If you can’t say something nice then don’t say anything at all.” The other one I grew up with was, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Now as an adult, when I hear these statements, it makes me stop and think ‘do I really believe what these words are saying?’
I have come to believe that we were given two ears to hear and one mouth to speak, making it very important to take time to listen to others, really listen. Not just with our ears, but with our heart and mind. Likewise, it is just as important to speak up too. Because we have one mouth, it is equally important to use our words wisely because you cannot take them back.
We all have experienced relationships that are healthy and uplifting, as well as those that pull us down because of the names we may have been called or labeled with or the hurtful words that were said. Sadly, the work to undo the names or hurtful words takes a lot of effort from us to remove from our hearts and minds. So, what are we to do? Is the old adage true, if I can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all? Do negative names hurt?
While we don’t and won’t always agree with everyone, it is important to use our voices with words that expand while communicating needs, desires or concerns. I believe we are all called to use the words given us to uplift, expand and help each other grow in our potential. When we constrict ourselves or others, our possibilities are then limited.
Let’s look at a few words from the English language and see the impact they can have. The definition in the Oxford Dictionary for the word but is: used to introduce a phrase or clause contrasting with what has already been said or used to indicate the impossibility of anything other than what is being stated.
In our daily life we will share one thought then cancel it out by connecting our next thought when using the word but. For example, you may say to someone “you did a really good job on this project, but it can be improved if we…” Does that build us or deflate us? What would happen if we replaced the word but with and?
The word and in the Oxford Dictionary is defined as: used to connect words of the same part of speech, clauses, or sentences that are to be taken jointly or used to introduce an additional comment or interjection. Now let’s change that in our example, “you did a really good job on this project, and it can be improved if we…” The word but constricts us, the word and expands us.
It is advisable to stop and think before we speak, especially in response to something or someone who is constricting us with their words. I believe as we take the time to think before we respond we will be given the words to help explain our position or even defend ourselves.
Names can build us or tear us down. Our given names are an incredibly important part of our identity. They carry deep personal, cultural, familial, and historical connections. They also give us a sense of who we are, the communities in which we belong, and our place in the world. Whether it is our given name, a title or a positive character trait that identifies us, how we see ourselves and believe these names, titles or traits, leads us to action.
Likewise, when someone uses a degrading or negative character trait or is disrespectful when using our given name, it can have a big impact on our productivity and view of our self-worth. In current terms, this name calling is also called bashing.
So what is the antidote for this bashing that hurts feelings, demeans others, destroys relationships, and harms self-esteem? Bashing should be replaced with charity. In the scriptures Moroni described it this way:
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all…Charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever.”
The power of words is real, and the actions they encourage are a result of the belief of those words. Let us unite in using words that expand and build on charity.
At Believe, we are working to expand the good in the world and believe you have the good that is needed to help others realize it in them too. We believe through your charitable acts and power of words you can help bring healing and purpose to others every day. We would love to have you join us as we work to bring more good in the world.