The Power of Words

On October 29, 1941, during what was perhaps the darkest period in the 20th century, Winston Churchill gave a commencement speech at Harrow School in England. The speech has become legendary and some say that Churchill’s speech consisted of only three words, “Never give up.” In reality, the speech was a little longer and included these remarks:

Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy…

These three words, “Never give in” sum up one of the most inspirational speeches in history and highlight the fact that the right words spoken at the right time can inspire a nation and create the momentum for stepping out of defeat and into victory.

A kind word can also make the difference between a good or bad day. Proverbs 12:25 puts it like this, “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” As a coach, I’ve noticed that encouragement is one of the greatest resources a coach has at his or her disposal. A word of encouragement creates belief and motivation for players not to give up.

This simple principle also applies to the rest of life and our words can become a beautiful resource for living out the practical aspect of what it means to follow Jesus. I believe some of the best ways we can use our words are by using them to bring a smile to someone’s face, by giving hope to the people around us, and by bringing clarity into confusion. Sometimes God can use our words to unlock mysteries, convey the prophetic, and when they are used to express praise and worship to God, we are implementing our faith.

But on the flip side, words can also be used for tearing down. They can destroy nations, crush a person’s identity and devastate a relationship. Some words can be deeply hurtful, vicious and vindictive, untrue, misleading, dirty and very dark. They can fly with gut-wrenching accuracy and leave behind wounds that are painful — sometimes etched into a person’s memory for decades. “How could you say that…” or “You promised you would never tell anyone…” are phrases that reveal the deep hurt and brokenness of hostile words.

For many of us, learning to control our tongue and the words it produces is a very practical step toward walking the talk — living the life of faith. Here are a few very practical steps toward building a healthier vocabulary:

  1. Begin each morning by thanking God for the day.
  2. Cultivate an environment of inspirations at work by using our words to encourage and build others up.
  3. Always speak the truth in love.
  4. What we talk about is a reflection of what’s in our heart, therefore fill your heart with God’s Word.
  5. Before the day is over, take a moment to thank God for the day.

In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul leaves us with these instructions, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Our words are powerful, let’s resolve to use them for building others up.  

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