The Power of Words

Screen capture from YouTube video Words by Hawk Nelson

Words are awesome. Words are a complete inexpressible thought forced into just a few syllables. English itself is a messed up language. A language hard to speak and even harder to write. It ever evolves, ever changes, adding to it words borrowed from other people and cultures around the world. Of course, English doesn’t just borrow words from other languages, it follows other languages down abandoned allies, beats them up and goes through their pockets for loose grammar.

In English, we have an ever evolving fluid language. Honestly, it’s a language of awesome.

But there are words of other languages that just can’t be translated into English. These are some of my favorite I lifted from (you can read them here and here).

Some of my favorite ones are German like kummerspeck which is translated as weight gain due to emotional overeating. It literally means “bacon grief.” Then there’s packesel which means the person who gets stuck holding all the bags or luggage (kinda like what happens with me when I go shopping with my lovely wife) and it means a burro (again, me shopping with my wife). Recently I learned about the word backpfeifengesicht which loosely translates as a face in need of a fist (and I think that expresses the emotion many of us have had at one time or another).

The thing is, is that words can bring life to a situation (like explaining your feeling as you are experiencing bacon grief) or it can bring harm (again, a face in need of a fist). The problem is that our words carry weight. The tongue is sharper than any sword or knife or some sharp thingyamajig (and I’m talking about speaking, not tonsil hockey).

James writes

The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world o evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body.” James 3:5-6

What we say has an ever lasting effect on people, good or bad, it sticks to the soul and seeps into the marrow of our bones.

When I was pastoring out in South Dakota, one of my favorite things to do was to ring the bell before the evening church service. Some thought it weird, but there’s something fun about pulling a rope and causing a giant metal object to make a really loud noise everyone in town could hear. One thing I learned is that once the bell is rung, it can never be un-rung. The soundwaves of the metal upon metal flies as fast as sound will take it (you know, the speed of sound and all that) and can never be brought back. The same is true with the words we speak. They can never be taken back. Ever.

The Book of Proverbs speaks well about how our words can help or hurt

A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly…the soothing tongue is a tree of life but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:1-2, 4

Over the years I have been torn down by people’s words (I had a math teacher in high school who outright said I shouldn’t waste my time with college) and I’ve been built up by people’s words (I had a prof in college who said that I’d be scary if I actually tried and encouraged me to use my gifts for good rather than tormenting professors at college). Words are powerful. They can sooth or they can crush. They can calm down a situation or make it worse. It’s all about how you say it.

How will you use your words? How will you speak words to others, words of life or words of pain? Will you help someone understand their bacon grief or make them feel that their face deserves a fist? Will you help foster life and growth in someone or will you tear them down?

Words can convey so much. There’s so much meaning packed into so few syllables. And each word we speak brings life or pain and hurt to someone else. How will you use your words today?

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