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.