The Power of Words: Impacts of What We Say

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Words, or what we say, can be the fruit of our lips (Hosea 14:2); likewise, they can either acquit us or condemn us (Matt. 12:37). Ah, the beauty of free will.

You might’ve heard it said that our words have power – power to build up or even to destroy. Maybe you’ve been on the receiving end of another’s harsh, hurtful words, or perhaps you’ve even been the one to deliver them (it’s a statistical certainty that we probably all have at some point or another). Either way, it’s evident that words have power. What we believe and what we say directly impacts our lives and the world around us. 

Seek truth…

Seeking truth in our beliefs is at the core of what we say. Truth in and of itself is a hot topic. Culture today indicates that each of us has “our own truth,” but this notion contradicts itself. Simply because something feels good to us does not necessarily make it true or permissible. Similarly, just because something makes us uncomfortable or upset does not invalidate it or make it false. To get through the murkiness of society’s influence, it’s necessary to delve into the Word of God to reestablish what truth is, how we are supposed to behave, what our beliefs say about us, and what we inevitably express through words.

… no matter your circumstances.

If you’ve been privy to the human experience (yes, you!), you’ll know that circumstances often influence what we say and believe. Excited about that promotion? Chance are, your beliefs and words will predictably follow suit. Same goes for when things aren’t going so well… Just lost your closest friend? Struggling with a chronic illness? Chances are your words – at the very least – will be heavily influenced by what you’re going through, not to mention your fundamental beliefs being shaped and challenged. Here’s the bright side, though: Words have the power to give life. You’ve probably heard the saying “Fake it ‘til you make it,” which bears some credence, albeit minimal. While I’m not a fan of phony people, this concept is simple; sometimes it is necessary to behave according to the outcome you desire, especially when your circumstances deem it near-impossible.

Words can give life.

Words can give life. As followers of Christ, we rely on the Spirit of God to give life. John 6:63 says, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.” If we mistakenly believe that we ourselves can succeed on our own, we set ourselves up for disaster. In the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 29:19 admonishes us that, “When such a person hears the words of this oath and they invoke a blessing on themselves, thinking, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way,” they will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry.” Words are not just idle, they are our life (Deut. 32:47).

Words can be destructive.

The books of Psalms and Proverbs are full of wisdom and direction on how we ought to carefully hone what we say. In my opinion, what we say to ourselves is just as important as what we say to others. Self-talk, which is basically a combination of the concepts you deem true in your mind and heart, also has the power to make or break your spirit. Practicing epistemic humility towards ourselves, as well as to others, is an important part of meaningful growth.

Admonition and Encouragement from the Psalms and Proverbs (NIV, 2011)

The admonition and encouragement of the books of Psalms and Proverbs have simple but powerful tidbits on how we ought to live our lives. Ultimately, we live not to serve ourselves, but to glorify God; this is the reminder through Psalm 19:14: “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (NIV, 2011).

Words invoke emotion.

Again, part of the human experience involves emotion. Heck, our experiences revolve around emotion. Plain and simple, humans are emotional beings. (How and whether we show emotion is a different subject altogether. Can’t promise I’ll be writing a post on that subject anytime soon!) 

King Saul burned with a righteous anger as a response to what he heard (1 Sam. 11:6). Sometimes God chooses to empower us through the words of others, inspiring us to fruitful action.

Words can also give us courage. King Asa chose to believe the words that the Spirit of God spoke to him. In 2 Chronicles 15:8, Asa heard the words and the prophecy, and “he took courage.” The Lord was with him.

God makes things known to us at just the right time – His timing. Celebration and joy come from deep understanding of God’s Word (Neh. 8:12). The Word of God “support[s] those who stumble and strengthen[s] faltering knees” (Job 4:4).

Job is a sobering example of how life circumstances influence what we say and believe. Amid his suffering, he cried out on several occasions to the Lord: 

            How painful are honest words! But what do your arguments prove?

Job 6:25

            How long will you torment me and crush me with words?

Job 19:2

It is most important to note that Job grew in wisdom and in his trust of God’s plan through his painful life experiences. He provides us advice and encouragement through his own words:         

Accept instruction from his mouth and lay up his words in your heart. Job 22:22

Job 22:22

I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.

Job 23:12

My words come from an upright heart; my lips sincerely speak what I know.

Job 33:3

Words give us a solid, reliable sense of direction.

It’s about more than just a moral compass. In both the temporal and in the eternal, the truth of God’s Word guides us and helps us grow. Sometimes the journey can feel lonely, but often it’s a collective movement. In Ephesians 5:6, the Apostle Paul writes, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.” An indisputable part of living a godly life is seeking God’s guidance above that of errant humans.

This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.

I Corinthians 2:13

The Lord doesn’t leave us high and dry. He gives us exactly what we need when we need it. The prophet Jeremiah is a prime example of this: “Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘I have put my words in your mouth’“ (Jer. 1:9). Jeremiah goes on to say, “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty” (Jer. 15:16). Comparably, we must fix the Word of God in our hearts and minds, “[tying] them as symbols on [our] hands and [binding] them on [our] foreheads” (Deut. 11:18). Asking God to give you all that you need demonstrates faith in His abilities, not your own. Being open to His guidance shows your humility rather than your pride.

Use your superpowers for good.

The writer of Hebrews states, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). So remember, when you speak, “do so as one who speaks the very words of God” (1 Pet. 4:11). Do you recall when Uncle Ben told Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spider-Man) that with great power comes great responsibility? Maybe that’s not the most eloquent example, but you get the point. God has given you the superpowers of free will, of words, and of love. Use them for good. Use them for His glory.

Believe His eternal promises.

Jesus himself guaranteed that, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). He emphasized the temporal nature of this life, while highlighting the enduring assurance of eternal life. “Heaven and earth will pass away,” he said, “but my words will never pass away” (Matt. 24:35).

Words have power. They can give life; they can also destroy. The Word of God is the ultimate standard of truth. What we believe and what we say can make all the difference in the world. As I draw to a close, I hope you get a chuckle out of a couple of my favorite family sayings that go a little like this:

“Just because you can say something, doesn’t mean you should.”

“Choose your words wisely. Once they’re out of your mouth, you can’t put them back.”

And last, but certainly not least, focus on standing firm when the world around you is falling apart. “But we ought to always thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13).

References

New International Version Bible. (2011). Bible Gateway. https://www.biblegateway.com/versions/New-International-Version-NIV-Bible/#booklist

Wiersbe, W. W. (1991). Nelson’s Quick Reference: Chapter-by-Chapter Bible Commentary. Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Quiche au brocoli

This is my favorite homemade broccoli cheese quiche recipe. The homemade pie crust is what seals the deal and draws all the flavors and textures together. Bon appétit mes amis!

Prepare to delight your tastebuds.

Ingredients

For crust

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cold water, plus more if needed

For quiche mixture

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • 1 cup cooked broccoli
  • 1 tablespoon onion soup mix
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese for topping

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Gather 9″ pie plate and ingredients.
  2. Mix flour, shortening, salt, and water until soft dough forms. If it’s too sticky, add a little flour; if it’s too crumbly, add a little more water. (Resist the urge to over-mix, as it will toughen the crust and not be as flaky.)
  3. Roll out pie crust to fit pie plate; gently press down and make a few holes with a toothpick or fork. Bake for 6-8 minutes.
  4. While pie crust is baking, mix together eggs, cottage cheese, milk, onion soup mix, and broccoli.
  5. Add mixture to crust and top generously with shredded cheese; bake for 30-35 minutes.
  6. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy with a side salad or soup.
Magnifique!

This recipe is a collaborative family effort that spans generations of cooks and cuisines.

Here we stand

I’m not sure what I could say to adequately describe the pride I feel as an American (for the first time in a long time), or the hope welling up inside me as a woman, the wife of a Black man, and the mother of two biracial girls. 

History, faith, and reason show the way toward unity.

President Joseph R. Biden, Inaugural Address 2021

As both an academic and a Christian, I found comfort and reassurance in the words of President Biden, Reverend Dr. Silvester Beaman, and Father Leo O’Donovan. Poet and activist Amanda Gorman challenged, inspired, and admonished as she recited her poem The Hill We Climb. She was the cherry on top of a modest, empowering lineup.

Since our foundation, America has overcome so much – yet we still have vital work to accomplish together. Planting and sowing seeds of unity rather than discord, truth instead of lies, love in lieu of hate. 

We must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and manufactured… There is truth and there are lies. Each of us has a duty and responsibility to defend the truth and defeat the lies.

President Biden

Today’s inauguration proceedings, the antithesis to the chaos at the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 (a mere two weeks ago), have boosted the country into an era of dramatic positive change, and have caused me to reflect simultaneously on history and the future.

The answer is not to turn inward; we must end this uncivil war. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts… if we show tolerance and humility.

President Biden

President Biden’s speech was compassionate and powerful. I jotted down scribbles of inspiration as he spoke – words I’m sure will be written in the pages of history for generations to come. The gist of it? Americans need each other. One nation, under God.

America has been tested and we’ve come out stronger for it. We’ll lead by the power of our example.

President Biden

This has to be the beginning of something better, something deeper and more meaningful, more lasting. We’ve got to ask ourselves: What legacy are we leaving for our children and the generations who follow?

I choose to lead by example.

Weeping may endure for a night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5, AMP)
 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)

…et voilà!

My dissertation is officially published, and I’m experiencing a conglomeration of relief, gratitude, and excitement all at the same time. My colleagues will probably chuckle at this, but I’m already considering upcoming areas of research and what to explore next.

This year has been full of surprises and challenges, and it will be no doubt be an unforgettable one. I’m happy to wrap up the year 2020 with this accomplishment, and eager to meet the future.

Thoughts at the coffee table

There are a couple of books I’m enjoying reading simultaneously this fall, almost always with a cup of strong black coffee nearby (my preference at any time of day).

Since I wrapped up my dissertation research and began teaching online, I’ve been making it a point to keep up with the changing atmosphere of online higher education — especially as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continues to significantly impact the interactions between students and instructors in this forum. I’ve seen firsthand how decision making processes are influenced and prioritized based on an individual’s immediate environment. For example, if a student’s child falls ill or spouse loses their job, online learning sometimes takes a back seat (and rightly so). These things matter to me, both as a former student and a current instructor.

It’s important to me as an educator to connect with my students through their perceptions and experiences, which are certainly not limited to the online environment. Communication, collaboration, and community are dependent upon the quality of our participation at any level.

A colleague of mine suggested Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes (Darby & Lang, 2019), which focuses in part on student and instructor motivation. In short, a student’s ability to make connections between what they think they know at the get-go to what they aspire to learn by the completion of a course is essentially what drives their motivation. The other, Beyond Feelings: A Guide to Critical Thinking (Ruggiero, 2012), serves as the foundational text for a course I’m teaching and encourages the reader to challenge their own thought processes, beliefs, values, and biases. Both books are written in cohesively and practically, which I appreciate as an educator.

Cheers!

References

Darby, F., & Lang, J. M. (2019). Small teaching online: Applying learning science in online classes. Jossey Bass.

Ruggiero, V. R. (2012). Beyond feelings: A guide to critical thinking. McGraw-Hill.