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The Power of Words


Last year I attended a presentation by a poet who made a very simple statement: “Every word matters.” As someone who reads, and writes, and edits, and re-writes, I would agree.

Sometimes we use many words very casually; they are not meant to convey any great meaning but as a means of sharing. I’m thinking of coffee with a friend last week; we talked and laughed for 2 hours, covering everything from church to travel to school.  The conversation was fun and lively, but we weren’t trying to solve the worlds’ problems.

Sometimes words are there for the purpose of sharing information and ideas. I had lunch with a friend, during which our conversation showed that we have similar viewpoints on a particular topic; as a result my friend shared his take on a book he’s recently finished, which I am now about to start reading. I expect that we will continue such discussions as we each continue our study and thinking on the topic.

Sometimes, words carry a lot of emotion. When I recently shared an accomplishment with my chosen family (we don’t share DNA or adoption paperwork, but they’ve been my family for longer than I can remember), Dad’s immediate response was “Oh hon, I’m so proud of you!” Those few words spoke of the love and support they had offered me throughout the work, and the delight they shared with me in its completion.

Sometimes words can carry in them profound support. At the end of a recent chat with my bishop, he encouraged me by saying “Keep seeking the joy!” What I heard in the bishop’s words suggested that he sees my efforts to recognise and celebrate the deep God-given joy that is present to us all, and that I aim to share that delight with those around me.

Sometimes, unfortunately, we can also think of examples where words have been used to hurt, to destroy, to bring someone down. I’ll not give an example, as I don’t think it would be helpful. But we do recognise that we have been hurt by others’ words, that we have hurt others by our words.

We can all think of times when words have been overwhelming, unnecessary, irrelevant, inappropriate to time and place.  So I challenge us to all be careful with our words – to use them to empower others and build up the body of Christ. I challenge us to be aware of the power of our own words, of the way in which they will be heard, of the meaning we want to put into them. And of how our choice of words will reflect who and whose we are, and reflect how we present ourselves, our communities, our faith.

Matthew 12.36-37 “I tell you, on the day of judgement you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.’

What words have had an impact on you? What expressions of love, support, or encouragement have demonstrated the power of words in your life? Do you express these messages visually – posters, fridge magnets, tattoos? What value do you place on words?

About Laura Marie Piotrowicz

I'm a high-energy priest, now serving in the Diocese of Niagara, catching glimpses of the kingdom in daily life. I consider church to be a verb, and I'm passionate about prayer, eco-theology, and social justice. I love travel, reading, canoeing, camping, gardening and cooking, playing with my dogs, and drinking good coffee.
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