Honestly, I put off typing today’s post. I couldn’t decide for sure which topic I wanted to talk on. There’s plenty that I want to say, but I want to say it on twenty different subjects in thirty different ways. Narrowing it down and actually choosing what I wanted to type on was so aggravating that, once again, I halfway considered saying “forget it” and ignore my self-set blog schedule. Even once I chose my topic, I struggled to articulate my thoughts. The power of words? It seems like such a cliche topic. We all know the Disney quote: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Even though it’s a simple topic, I couldn’t help but notice that the power of words was becoming a running theme in my personal life these past few days. Actually, the power of misplaced, false words was the theme. Here’s a few ways I saw it pop up:
1. This Is Us. Yes, I watch the show and I love it. Yes, I’m over half a year behind on catching up on episodes. For those of you in the same boat, don’t worry, I won’t spoil much. In one episode though, a father tells his son that he understands his troubles and that he experienced the same thing. The problem, though, is that isn’t true. The white father hadn’t experienced the racism that his adoptive black son had experienced, and the father was blissfully unaware that he had even said anything wrong until a little while later when he was confronted on it. He came to realize how his “understanding” wasn’t what his son needed; the son needed his struggles to be acknowledged and not swept under the table.
2. Youtube Video Essays. For those of you that aren’t very active on Youtube, video essays are longer videos where the content creator speaks on an issue that they see as relevant. They provide research and information often to persuade the audience that action must be taken or that they need to change their mindset. In the past two days, I’ve listened to two in the background about the dangers of mob mentality and how easy it is to get swept up by false information. In both cases, mob mentality caused irrational hate towards something/someone and had serious impacts on their lives and livelihoods (like physical threats and death wishes. Yikes.)
3. Rick Fox. The big news from last Sunday was the tragic and sudden death of Kobe Bryant. Now, I’m not a basketball fan, but nobody can deny that the crash that killed him, his daughter, and seven others was tragic. What’s also tragic is the false news that spread in the early hours of the investigation. When ABC first reported the crash, they dropped a hint that all of his daughters may have been on that helicopter with him. Then there were several news stations that also said that Rick Fox, a retired NBA player, may have also been killed in that crash. After that rumor got out, Rick’s phone started ringing off the hook with calls from concerned friends and loved ones–even his daughters– who wanted to make sure he wasn’t on that helicopter. One daughter even admitted that it was her worst fear to hear about her father’s passing through social media (even though it was thankfully incorrect). Here’s a link to an article if you’re curious about him responding to that rumor while grieving the loss of a friend.
Not all false news can cause the intense grief and fear that Fox’s family went through. Sometimes, the words we choose seem to have very little impact at all. It’s only later, when we’re faced with the words we’ve spoken, that we realize that we may have wanted to choose our words a little more carefully.
Bloggers and publishers in particular need to be reminded that our words do have power, whether we have an audience of one or one million. We have the power to speak truth and encouragement or the power to say what benefits us in the moment, even if it hurts others.
Actually, I can’t limit that to writers. As human beings we need to remember that words have power. So before you speak or write, ask yourself: Is it true? And ask yourself another question: Is it edifying?
Whether you’re a Christian or not, I think that Ephesians 4:29 makes a valid point: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (emphasis mine).
Instead of speaking because we can, we should be speaking because it helps others. And if we aren’t speaking, then we should be listening. James 1:19 says it well: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”
In today’s world, there are so many ways to communicate our thoughts. Blogs, podcasts, video, Facebook, Twitter, etc. There’s no shortage of people posting and sharing their thoughts. Sometimes if may feel like you’re shouting into a void when you post something, but that’s not the case. Someone is listening. Be aware of that person. Lift them up with truth. Remember, words have immeasurable power.
And so does listening. There are plenty of people out there, “yelling into a void” and thinking that nobody hears them. Listen to them. Encourage them. Don’t forget that listening can be even more beneficial than speaking.