CLERGY CORNER: The power of words

Posted on 26 May 2016 by LeslieM

This election cycle has produced an ongoing war of words between opposing candidates. And while it is not a new phenomenon in the contest to attain a political office, the growth of Twitter and other social media platforms has increased the exposure that candidates and their words normally receive. In this season, the demeaning and destructive tone of political rhetoric has resounded among both of the dominant parties of this country. Many are beginning to lament that what ought to be a contest of ideas has degraded to carefully crafted attacks intended to destroy one’s opponent.

In his observation of human life and behavior, King Solomon concluded that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). There is a power inherent in words to set or change the course of a person’s life and destiny. Our earliest awareness of this is during childhood, when kind words spoken to us make us feel good about ourselves whereas harsh words create hurt, fear, or sadness. The old expression “sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never harm me” was not true at all. Name calling, especially among children and the emotionally fragile, can inflict grievous psychological and spiritual injury. Consider the effect that bullying has on young people who felt trapped, and who gave in to despair.

We must be careful to monitor what we say in conversation with each other. Even as adults we are not immune to the effects of positive or negative discourse. An ill-timed word can quickly create an argument, but a well-placed word can just as soon quiet a verbal tempest. What we say is important, and how we say it is even more so. Our thought life is affected primarily by the words that we hear or read throughout our lives, and we communicate chiefly through our speech and conversations. How much easier would it be for us to live together if we were more encouraging, helpful, and kind with our words?

Jesus taught that we will be called into account for the things that we say. In Matthew 12:36-37 He stated, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

It is true that the intense emotions of our particular circumstances can often be the stimulus for hasty speech and unplanned outbursts, but a well-managed demeanor is a characteristic of mature individuals. Constantly apologizing for words that were spoken can be indicative of a problem that one should seek help in correcting. Those who excuse their harsh and critical language may discover that their words will return to haunt them one day.

Perhaps this is why King David demonstrated an awareness of the power of words in some of his psalms. He advised, “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies” in Psalm 34:13. And he prayed that God would approve of his conversations in Psalm 19:14, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” That sounds like good practice and a good petition for all of us to mimic and employ in our interaction with each other. Choose your words carefully for they have power to bring about both good and bad.

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441, 954-427-0302.

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