Words are dangerous. They are powerful weapons that can build up or tear down people, organizations, families, companies, and relationships. And anyone who has the capability to wield words, spoken or written, has a great responsibility to use them in a way that is beneficial.
As a writer, I am always amazed at what words can do. English to me is one of the most fascinating languages in the world, mainly because it’s so weird. It has rules to follow that it only follows half the time. Its only standard of pronunciation is that there is no standard. Spelling is no less strange. And between denotation and connotation, it’s no wonder that native speakers have as much trouble understanding its depth and breadth as those who learn it later in life (those folks who have learned English as a second language, I applaud your efforts; it’s one of the hardest languages out there to learn to speak).
Anyone who speaks or writes, whether professionally or just for fun, should realize how powerful words are. In a single sentence–sometimes even a single word–you can either encourage or you can discourage. You can enrich or you can rob. You can heal or you can hurt. And before you wield the power of a word, you need to think it through very carefully.
In this modern age of Tweets and Facebook statuses and blogging and comment posting, people have become accustomed to writing or saying whatever they want whenever they want without the fear of repercussions. The Internet is the great equalizer, a source of anonymity where anyone can voice his or her opinion, no matter how hurtful, and have a captive audience.
That only means that today’s verse is truer than ever. Today’s verse is Ephesians 4:29.
29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
As a Christ Follower who is also a writer, it’s my reponsibility to make sure that everything I write will be encouraging and enriching to others. Now, we need to make sure we understand what encouraging means there because it doesn’t mean to just say nice, sweet, feel-good things all the time. Encourage means to give someone courage. It means to tell the truth in love but not to pull punches when someone needs a good smack in the head.
The Amplified Version calls it speech that is “good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion.”
So I need to make sure that what I’m writing is true, first. And then I need to make sure that I’m presenting it in a way that will help people grow spiritually. I do believe that a blog is a good place to air out opinions, but at the same time just because I can use a blog as a place to say what I want to say doesn’t alleviate the responsibility I have to make sure what I’m writing is true and communicated in love.
But the responsibility to write and speak this way isn’t just for writers and speakers. It’s for everyone. Because everyone is going to speak today, and even those who don’t speak often are still going to write something. And in a culture where it’s so easy to be critical and even easier to say mean things to each other (even if they’re true), those who follow Christ need to live to a different standard. Even if what you have to say to others won’t make them happy, you can still communicate it in a way that is positive. If they take it negatively, that’s up to them, but you can still do your part and try to speak truth in love.
If it were impossible to do, God wouldn’t have told us to do it. Nothing is impossible with His help. Granted, that doesn’t mean it will be easy. And, boy, is it easy to say mean things. Easy and fulfilling sometimes, especially when someone else has been mean to you — but that road never pans out.
When you’re tempted to say or write something cruel, don’t. Say or write something encouraging instead. You never know where it might take you and you never know how you might help someone you didn’t even know was watching.