Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Power of Words

I looked at the man standing across the deli counter as he peered back at me from behind his glasses. He was short, gray haired and balding. His face was wrinkled by time and his mouth drawn tight. I had asked him to slice some turkey for me and he was not being very nice. In fact, he said something to me that was very rude. Immediately into my mind came a nasty response, but as I opened my mouth to express it, an interesting thing happened. Just as the words were forming on my lips, into my mind came the following, “What he said to you, you know is not true and it did not hurt you, but what you are going to say to him will cut him to the very core.” I shut my mouth, thanked him for the meat, and walked away.

I have thought about that experience often. How many times have I not been stopped before uttering words that cut people to the very core? How often have my words destroyed, or weakened those around me? What might I say, or not say if I knew how my words would be received by the hearer?

Words are very powerful things. They can demean and destroy but they can also build and strengthen. Think of the power there is in just hearing your name. When I first moved to the town where we now live, I was called to be a relief society teacher and taught once a month. The stake relief society president made an effort to get to know all the teachers in the stake and when she would see me, a very obscure girl in her mid twenties, she would always greet me by name. In taking the time to learn and remember my name, she made me feel important. And I loved her for it. To this day she remains one of my most favorite people.

Think also of the power in the words, “I love you”. A few years ago I was challenged by a friend to express my love to those around me. I could easily express my love to my husband and children, but I never used those words with anyone else. I felt embarrassed and uncomfortable saying them, but decided to accept the challenge. Gradually I began to express love to siblings and friends. It was then I learned a very important lesson. You cannot sincerely express love to someone without feeling in your heart that very love you are expressing, and the more you say it, the more your love grows.

I had no idea when I accepted the challenge how much it would change my life. I had spent many years protecting my heart from being wounded, but in learning to express love, my love for others not only increased, but the walls I had built around my heart began to come down, and I learned to let people into my life where I had previously kept them out.

I love the general conference talk by Elder Holland titled “The Tongue of Angels”. In it he quotes Joseph Smith saying, "It is by words . . . [that] every being works when he works by faith. God said, 'Let there be light: and there was light.' Joshua spake, and the great lights which God had created stood still. Elijah commanded, and the heavens were stayed for the space of three years and six months, so that it did not rain. . . . All this was done by faith. . . . Faith, then, works by words; and with [words] its mightiest works have been, and will be, performed."

If words can be used to create the earth, move mountains and shut up the heavens, think how they can be used to lift and built those around us. What good might come from saying, “I love what you said” “I appreciate you” or “I know you can do it”. How might expressing our love soften hearts, or a note of gratitude help heal a wounded soul?

Kind and loving words spoken, are tools of creation.

Elder Holland went on to say, “Our words, like our deeds, should be filled with faith and hope and charity, the three great Christian imperatives so desperately needed in the world today. With such words, spoken under the influence of the Spirit, tears can be dried, hearts can be healed, lives can be elevated, hope can return, confidence can prevail.”

My challenge is this . . .this minute, this hour, this day . . . exercise faith in the power of words to create. Find someone whose heart needs repair, a relationship that needs mending, or a person who needs strengthening, and exercise faith in the power of words to create good and build those around you.

And may the words you speak and hear, always bring great . . . joy to your journey.


Dave and Camille said...

Thanks for the wonderful post! You make such a good point. I know that whenever I move into a new ward or what not, I tend to feel very uncomfortable and shy. However, it's amazing how much happier and welcomed I feel when someone takes the time to do something as little as say "Hi" as they walk by. Love you! :)

Heidi Ashworth said...

Your posts are always so uplifting! Reading this reminded me that the way we treat people has more to do with our own strengths and wounds than theirs--and the reverse is also true. The way others treat us has more to do with their strengths and wounds. It helps to not take things personally when people are hurtful.

JUST ME, THE MOM said...

Beautiful new look, it's so fun to remodel, now if I only could update my kitchen . . . ;) I think the message is wonderful and so true. It's something that I always struggle with, to engage my mind first before opening my mouth. I wish things didn't just slip out all by themselves. I think it makes such a big difference in relationship.

Thanks for sharing!


Becky said...

This post is so beautifully written and inspiring. As a mom I think my words have the greatest impact to uplift and strengthen -- more than any other person I may speak to. But it seems to also be my biggest challenge to speak with loving kindness to my children at all times.

Chelsea said...

I love this post. And I agree with Becky. I think the greatest opportunity we have to create is with our children. What a wonderful thought that we can help built their character, faith and self confidence all by the words we use and the example we set. Thanks for the post and the reminder.

Emma T said...

Good thought. I think I am going to be much more careful in the words I use now. I have thought about how my words can hurt, I hadn't give a lot of thought to purposely choosing words to uplift and build those around me and to create the environment I want. It reminds me as well of the talk President Uchtdorf gave at the women's broadcast on the power to create. Thanks for the post.