Posts Tagged words

Our Words Hold the Power to Bring Life or Death

My friend said to his mother, “Don’t worry about it. They are just words.”

In fact, she was right to worry. She was concerned about the wording changes in her church’s by-laws. Words that reeked of exclusion and fear.

She had prayed fervently that the ugliness that was sweeping through churches nationwide would not touch her church, but it did.

Words are never just words. Our words are sacred. When we were endowed with the power of speech, God gave us the power to bless or to wound others with our words.

The psalmist prayed that not only “the words of my mouth” but also “the meditations of my heart” would be pleasing to God (Psalm 19:14).

Similarly, the Greeks used the word logos to mean words spoken as well as words formed in the brain but not yet spoken.

Words spoken and/or heard become part of our nervous system. They may stimulate an immediate response, or they may lie dormant for years.

Words are never just words. They carry with them the power of life or death.

Rudyard Kipling said, “Words are the most powerful drugs used by man.”

The U.S. has been tragically reminded of how destructive words can be when they are weaponized by someone with evil intent.

Our democracy was threatened when a mob set out to overthrow our government. It seems that some were actively looking for certain officials whom they intended to harm.

Some in the mob shouted, “Hang Mike Prince.” Others cried out ominously, “Naaaaancy. Oh, Naaaaancy.” Thankfully, they did not succeed in finding either.

Many police officers were injured, and one was killed. There was much destruction to our Capitol and the business of the Congress was delayed.

The former president of the United States is a master politician and showman.

He understands the power of words especially when the same inflammatory words are repeated day after day, week after week and month after month. He is skilled at name-calling and character assignation.

With his words, he has been successful in undermining the press, the scientific community, the intelligence service, the FBI and the CDC. He has mastered the art of destructive speech.

Most heinous of all, he succeeded in turning citizen against citizen. This clearly demonstrates why words are never just words.

With his acquittal in the second impeachment hearing, former President Trump was not held accountable for the manner in which he (mis)used his freedom of speech leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

There is something to be learned from all of this: Our words are a sacred trust.

We have the power of creation with our words. We can create a better world one person at a time.

We can speak words of encouragement, hope and caring. We can build each other up and help create a more harmonious environment. We can create community.

We can search for leaders whose speech is more uplifting. So much of political programming on the radio and television is toxic, as are political campaigns.

No, we do not live in a Hallmark world and finding those who model healthy speech is not easy, but it is worth the effort.

As a follower of Christ, even more troubling is the reality that so many Christian leaders sacrificed their ideals in order to be associated with the former president.

They have done great harm to their reputations and to their calling. They have encouraged many of their followers to choose a darker path.

Their actions mocked the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9, NIV).

I believe that the attack on our Capitol is the worst calamity of my lifetime because it was not committed by a foreign power. It was committed by my fellow Americans at the urging of the former president.

Our words are important. Our words are powerful.

Let us use them wisely, so that they bring life not death.

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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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Saving Kindness – Sister Sandra Makowski

Once upon a time, in a little village in India, there lived a kind old man who would pray every morning at the Ganges River.  One morning, as he was praying, his eyes landed on a poisonous spider that was struggling in the water.  He cupped his hands to carry it ashore.   As he placed the spider on the ground it stung him.  His prayers saved him from the results of the sting.  However, the second day he returned to the river and the same thing happened.  Finally, on the third day, this kind man was knee deep in the river, and sure enough, there was that same spider, legs frantic in the water.  As the man went to lift the spider yet again, the spider said to him, “Why do you keep lifting me?  Can’t you see that I will sting you every time, because that is what I do?”  And the kind man cupped his hands about the spider yet again, and replied, “Because that is what I do.”

In the book The Book of Awakening, where we find this story, Mark Nepo continues by stating that there are many reasons to be kind, but none is as compelling as the spiritual fact that it is what we do.  It is how the inner organ of being keep pumping.  Spider sting, wolves howl, ants build small hills that no one sees, and human beings lift each other up no matter the consequences.  This is what it means to be human.  To be human is to be kind despite the consequences.  At other times, it may be the reaching out that is even more important than the sting.

My question lately, however, has been, if this is true – that being human is being kind despite the consequences, then why do I find myself actually surprised when I find myself in the presence of kindness?  It didn’t used to be that way.  Now – when I am in the presence of kindness it appears to be more like an act of heroism rather than a simple human response.  What has happened to kindness in our world?  Why does kindness sometimes appear to be on the endangered species list?  Is kindness becoming a lost art?  Has it gone out of style, and, if so, why, and what can we do about it?

There appears to be a lot of meanness in our world. I don’t understand harsh words, mean-spirited actions, and nastiness.  I don’t understand swearing, foul language, bullying, or intolerance toward others who attempt to express a different opinion or point of view.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am sure that I have had my share of righteousness at times, and I have my moments when I want to shove someone under a bus. But it is usually because I have come face to face with cruelty, and I have become pierced by its pain and its sting and its evil force.  Common courtesy seems to be pretty uncommon, whereas violence and meanness have become contagious.

Starting today, let us resolve to take a journey together – a journey of recovering kindness.  If we can recover kindness, then we can take its side.  Let us put away our prejudice, our need to win every battle of words, and our need to put someone down or disregard the feelings and needs of those around us.  Let us put aside every harsh and mean-spirited word that spills from our mouths, and let us walk together on this journey where God’s Word will flow from our mouths instead of words that kill and smother another human beings reputation.

Let us allow God’s Words to be our words, our melody of action in the daily walk of life.  Then, our journey to recover kindness will become automatic, like the wise man who reached to save the spider no matter the consequence.  It is what we do.  Let’s together form a kindness crusade.  We will never lose the battle if we choose the winning side – the side of kindness.

 

SAVING KINDNESS

Faceless and frantic, running and weaving,

In and out of people’s lives as well as one’s own.

Dropped paper, garbage on the streets, as well as an

Empty shell that once held a life.

 

Searching for softness and generosity, a smile, or even

Just a nod of notice

A gift of gratitude

A thank-you

A door being opened

A child held in love

A sadness transformed into a revelation

A window of giving – a truth exposed

A life turning toward wholeness once again.

One window, one touch, one step, one glance

Won over,

By one small gesture.  That’s not asking for too much is it?

One small glimmer of hope

That the world has not given up on kindness.

 

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COVID-19 Makes It Crucial to Be More Thoughtful with Your Words

This tongue-in-cheek question reveals the perils of constant contact with the same person or persons. Before COVID-19, the complaint was that I do not have enough time for my family.

The pandemic has brought extra urgency for “Say Something Nice Day” on June 1, and “Say Something Nice Sunday” on June 7.

We need to be extra considerate with those with whom we share the same space.

Little annoyances we would hardly notice when rushing about following our daily pursuits get more annoying when we are spending day and night with the same people for weeks.

We need to be more careful with our words. Words are powerful. Words can bring hurt or healing.

During this unwanted pause in our lives, we need to take care that our words are comforting and healing. We do not want to contribute to further anxiety or stress.

Remember that noise, especially loud noise, increases tension. Loud voices sound angry. We want to avoid both.

Conspiracy theories raise anxiety levels, so be sure to review carefully all of the information you are sharing. People are already on edge about their jobs, their investments and their future employment.

This is a time for contemplation about what our future looks like. We know it will not be the same. There is no going back to yesterday and so much feels out of our control.

Yet, we always have the power to choose our words with care. Say kind things to those around you. Don’t pick a fight out of boredom. It is easy to do. This situation is no one’s fault.

We will get through this and will be better because we will have developed new skills, found new ways of doing things and experienced new ways to worship.

However, we must continue to believe in one another and keep the common good in mind.

Speak words of encouragement; speak them with sincerity and speak them often. We will overcome. You will be amazed at how helpful kind words can be when someone who cares speaks them.

No one is urging you to be insincere or dishonest. We are all being urged to be our best selves. These days are tough, but we have been through hard times before. We are stronger than any situation.

One day at a time might give way to one hour at a time or even one minute at a time.

Somewhere I read that we can tell ourselves, “I’ve got this moment. I don’t know about the next one, but I’ve got this one.” We are resilient.

Scripture tells us over and over, “Fear not.” Arthur Caliandro, the late pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City, was fond of saying, “Be kinder than you think it necessary to be because the other person needs it more than you know.”

Our situation calls for us to be kinder. Our words are so important.

The pandemic has shown us once more that we are dependent on one another. The air we breathe connects us.

Let’s vow not to poison our air with hateful speech. Once ugly words are spoken, they cannot be recalled or erased. They are out there doing harm forever.

Why do we have “Say Something Nice Day” and “Say Something Nice Sunday”? We have them because we need them now more than ever.

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