Sticks and Stones: The Power of Words

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“You’re so stupid.”  “You’ll never amount to anything.”  “You’re ugly.” “You’re worthless.”   It’s painful just to read those words.  The old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is far from true.  A broken heart hurts far more than a broken bone.

On the other hand, phrases such as, “You’re so awesome.” “I’m so proud of you.” “You’re beautiful.”  “I love you,” create an internal sense of comfort and joy.  How different this world would be if these were the sayings everyone heard as children, and continued to hear and speak as adults.

Rachel, a 60 year old woman I know, tells about the life change that happened for her at the age of 20, when her mother died.  Rachel deeply grieved her mother’s passing, but her greatest regret was that she would never have a chance to say the words she wished she’d said throughout her mother’s life.  Neither Rachel, nor her mother, had ever spoken words of affirmation to the other.  At the time of her mother’s death, Rachel was filled with deep regret.  Though she couldn’t make up for it with her own mother, she made a decision that day to verbalize as many positive thoughts as she could about people.   Whether she knew them or not, Rachel would interrupt a person’s day to make them feel good.  If she was at a mall and would see a father treating his son kindly, she would stop him and comment on her observation.  For Rachel, her mother’s passing inspired a change in her that impacted everyone around her.

James 3:10 says that out of the same mouth comes praise and cursing.  The fact is that we don’t have any control over what was said to us as children, nor do we have control over what is said to us today.  But we do have control over two things.  First, we can choose to allow God’s truth about our value and His love for us to penetrate our hearts; and second, we can choose to become an instrument of God’s love and affirmation in others’ lives by the words we say.

Every single day, we have a multitude of choices in what we allow to come out of our mouths.  We can choose to speak death into someone or we can choose to speak life into someone.  Whether we’re young or old, sick or healthy, physically attractive or not, most of us have the ability to speak.  We can use our mouths to affirm our children, parents, friends, and our spouse.  We can choose to verbalize positive things that will bring a little bit of joy into someone’s day.  And don’t underestimate the power of the words, “ I love you.”  Yes, your husband/wife/child may know that you love him or her, but speaking the words truly makes a difference.

Speaking words of encouragement usually doesn’t take more than a few seconds, and it doesn’t cost anything.  It may require a little humility and vulnerability on your part, but the potential benefits far surpass the risk.  Be generous with your words.

For everyone out there who tends to be stingy with words of affirmation, I want to encourage you to not wait until someone you love passes away.  Begin today.  When a positive thought comes to your mind about anyone you care about, speak the thought into existence.  Let the power of your words make a positive impact on others.  I truly believe that it will benefit you as much as it does them.

This article was originally posted on The National Marriage Institute blog. 

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Posted on September 28, 2015 .