Posts Tagged power

Your Words Have Power in Everyday Life to Explode or to Heal

www.ethicsdaily.com – By Mitch CarnellJune 23, 2020

The triple effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, the heightened racial unrest and the economic meltdown have converged to make the words we use more impactful than we sometimes realize.

Our words have the power to calm an explosive situation so reason may take hold, or our words can explode the situation beyond repair.

“I understand. I’m sorry. I apologize. I love you. You are the light of the world.”

These are all just words, but would we want to live our life without them?

Many of us live with other words. “You‘re not good enough. You will never amount to anything. You don’t belong here. You are not one of us. You are not welcome here.”

“You’re fat. You’re ugly. You’re too short. You’re too tall. You’re poor. You’re too old. You’re too young.”

These also are just words, but none of us wants to live with them. Unfortunately, too many of us do.

Unless we have been on the receiving end of those words, we have no understanding of how hurtful they are or how long they fester inside of our nervous system.

Words are powerful. They work their way into our nervous system and become part of who we are.

Unfortunately, negative words seem to have more staying power, especially if someone important to us, such as an authority figure like a parent, teacher or clergyperson, speaks them.

In some families, negative words are the only words some children hear. Negative words are used for threats or punishment.

During my teaching career, several of my outstanding African American male graduate students confided in me. “We were made fun of in high school and undergraduate school for getting good grades. Friends said we were being too white.”

Norman Vincent Peale, the famous positive thinker preacher, had it right. He said, “Don’t walk away from negative people. Run.”

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Jessie Jackson said, “You are somebody.”

Jesus said it best, “You are the light of the world.”

These also are just words. They are important words.

For them to become important to us, we must internalize them. We must believe them. We must believe we are unique. We must believe we are worthy.

Tearing other people down has become a sport. It is reinforced over and over in television programs.

Bullying is a major problem on social media. Because it is anonymous, there is no penalty for the bully. Yet, such vitriol has produced countless accounts of lives being lost or damaged.

We hear it constantly in our political campaigns. It has become commonplace to savage the opponent rather than to counter her or his ideas.

There is a better way.

In an October 2008 campaign rally, the late U.S. Sen. John McCain set a high standard when he responded to a woman who called Barack Obama an Arab.

“No ma’am,” McCain said. “He’s a decent family man, a citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.”

This incident is considered by many to be one of the late senator’s highest moments.

Changing what we say to and about other people is hard work. Ensuring we are informed enough to form our perspectives about issues and people based on facts rather than rumors, falsehoods and conspiracy theories is even harder. It takes a conscious effort and it cannot be done overnight.

We might need to post notes to ourselves to remind us to think before we speak.

We may need to arm ourselves with lists of positive words and phrases or with Bible verses to show us how to make those changes.

Take it one person at a time. Remember, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 46:6).

Hardest of all, we may need to change the company we keep. Some people delight in pulling others down. Their influence is so toxic we may need to walk away.

The challenge comes from those who ridicule our efforts. “Saying something nice is so superficial. You’re just saying that. What do you really think? Come on now. Get off of your high horse.”

We are bombarded with so much ugliness in our world today neither you nor I can control; however, what we can control is our own behavior.

You and I can covet not to add our voices to the mix. We can agree to take control of what we say and to say only those things that build people up and that contribute to the well-being of everyone concerned.

Discipleship

Mitch Carnell

Mitch Carnell is a member of First Baptist Church of Charleston

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We Intend to Change the World through the Power of Christ-like Speech

Cross and Crown Lutheran Church in Florence, South Carolina and Providence Baptist Church on Daniel Island will celebrate Say Something Nice Sunday on June 11, Rev. Mary Finklea is pastor of Cross and Crown and Dr. Don Flowers is pastor of Providence. Rev. Finklea. and her congregation are long term supporters of the celebration.

This will be the first year for Providence and we are grateful for its support. Providence offers a progressive theological voice to the community. Corlys Devenny provided guidance and leadership.

On June 4, Rev. Bob Boston provided the Children’s Sermon at Circular Congregational Church in Charleston. He based his message on Say Something Nice and gave each of the children a button with the instructions, “When you go back to your seat ask your parent or teacher to pin the button on for you and then you say something nice.” His message was well received.

The Charleston/Atlantic Presbytery was one of the earliest supporters of our movement. This year Harborview Presbyterian Church on James Island under the leadership of Pastor Randy Boone joined the celebration. The church also sponsored an essay contest for students on the topic of the importance of saying nice things. Rev. Boone is a member of our steering committee.

We rejoice over each new congregation that joins our movement. We have a simple objective. We intend to change the world through the power of Christ-like speech. We urge you to join us. Talk with your pastor. Write, call, email or message all of your friends and ask for their help. There is nothing to buy or join. Help is available if you need it. A church is free to choose any Sunday for the celebration.

First Baptist Church of Charleston is the flagship and has provided tremendous encouragement. The staff and congregation are unwavering in their support. The time is right and the cause in urgent. Please help.

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Consider How Your Words Can Heal or Hurt – James Gordon – Ethics Daily

Consider How Your Words Can Heal or Hurt | James Gordon, Speech, Civility, Lent

I am persuaded that an ethic of language, a care for the words we speak and for the words we hear, is a crucial aspect of Christian witness, Gordon says. (Image courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

The first clause of the theological masterpiece, which is the Gospel of John, proclaims “In the beginning was the Word.”

The first words of God at the beginning of all things, according to that equally remarkable meteor of theology, the creation story in Genesis, are “And God said, ‘Let there be light.'”

For Christians, those two moments of divine articulation should be enough to teach us respect, indeed reverence, for words.

Whether written or spoken, words have performative power. They make things happen, they have an impact, they influence for good or ill, persuade of truth or lie, affirm or diminish, enlighten or deceive, liberate or oppress, heal or hurt.

As a Christian, I have a responsibility to give an account of my words. Indeed, Jesus warned that the day would come when we will give an account of every word we have spoken (Matthew 12:36).

Now there’s a warning for the biblical literalist self-righteously ramming their words of truth down other people’s throats.

Elsewhere in the gospels, there’s a quite different scenario – a Roman centurion, a man of few words and most of them were orders to other people (Matthew 8:5-13).

His personal servant is about to die, but he has heard Jesus is a healer, someone who speaks with authority. So he uses his networks and his influence, he sends Jewish elders to bring Jesus.

To cut a short story shorter, the centurion gets a message to Jesus, “Say the word and my servant will be healed.”

Now there’s a man who knows what words are for, who understands the power of the spoken word, someone used to seeing the performative power of words.

We live in a culture buried under words and blinded by an endless supply of new or familiar flickering images.

We hear so much, we are losing our hearing; we see so much our sight is blurring from image overload.

But staying with words for the present, Marilyn Chandler McIntyre, in her book, “Caring for Words in a World of Lies,” states with prophetic frankness, “Like any other life-sustaining resource, language can be depleted, polluted, contaminated, eroded and filled with artificial stimulants.”

I am persuaded that an ethic of language, a care for the words we speak and for the words we hear, is a crucial aspect of Christian witness.

From the praise songs we sing to the texts we send; from our conversations at work to the confidences we hold in trust for others; from the jokes we tell and laugh at to the lies we refuse to tell; from the clever put downs of those we dislike to the caring affirmations of other people’s worth; language carries with it obligations to which the follower of Jesus has to attend.

That’s why this Lent we should consider the nature of language – what it is that we do when we speak words to each other, how to endow words with sacramental significance so that speech becomes a means of grace, a strengthening of the soul in ourselves and others, and an influence for good, compassion, truthfulness and conciliation in our society.

I’m tired of cliché and spin, of the conspiracy, not of silence, but of unworthy words spoken in half-truth – evasive rather than clarifying, cruel rather than compassionate, empty of human communion rather than full of attentive human presence.

At a time when the Western world near absolutizes freedom of speech and expression, it’s time to examine much more closely the proper constraints on speech and expression.

It is time, too, to recognize the power of language to dehumanize and diminish other human beings in the interests of our own agendas, prejudices and unacknowledged as well as confessed enmities.

James Gordon is part-time minister of Montrose Baptist Church in Angus, Scotland, and the former principal of the Scottish Baptist College. He is on the advisory board of the Centre for Ministry Studies, University of Aberdeen, and continues as an occasional lecturer on practical theology and areas of ministry. A version of this article first appeared on his blog, Living Wittily, and is used with permission.

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Words Are Powerful

Words are powerful weapons. Words are lethal. Words can kill. On those many occasions when I displeased my parents as I was growing up, a paddling was short-lived, but those tongue-lashings were designed to rip my heart out. “How could you worry your mother like that?  What were you thinking about? Don’t you have any pride?”

Many issues have grown so complex in our society that we try to manage them by reducing them to a single word or phrase. We then attempt to pigeonhole people by putting one of those preconceived labels on them. We know that this is wrong and that we are committing an injustice against that person, but that doesn’t seem to stop us.

All of us know that words are continuously coming in or falling out of favor. People who must face the public regularly live in constant dread of using the inappropriate word. Today words must be politically correct. Words are powerful. “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” “I have a dream.”

Who among us has not been trapped or embarrassed by our own words? Remember the dramatic impact of those words, “Mission accomplished,” when they were first uttered?  Those words were not used by President Obama when he addressed the nation to announce the end of American troops fighting in Iraq. Those two words became devastating words to the former administration.

We were driving home from church one Sunday when our children were still in elementary school. “Daddy,” Michael began, “Let’s eat out.”

“Michael,” I began. “We just ate out yesterday. We can’t eat out every day.”

“We can if we try,” he exclaimed. I heard my own words coming back at me. Not a comfortable feeling. “But you said,” is always a powerful and difficult statement to defend against.

In spite of all the problems inherit in choosing just the right word or perhaps more accurately avoiding the taboo word, words are wonderful things. Words delight the soul, warm the heart and fire the imagination.  Think about how much time and care we put into choosing just the right names for our children. We want the names to be exactly right. The results are worth the efforts we make. We will reap great dividends if we take the same care in choosing the words we use in our conversations and public appearances.

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