The Power of Words

Valerie Ferrara

The Power of Words

Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing. –Proverbs 12:18

The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences. –Proverbs 18:21

A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. –Matthew 12:33-34

Spiritual Life Prefect and senior Dan Mawhinney addressed the faculty, guests, and his fellow students in Wednesday morning's Chapel service. Beginning with an anecdote about his first week-long camp experience as a middle-schooler and the misfortune of having his name made fun of by mispronunciation, Dan had no control over what others said, but those words had an impact.

"Why are words so powerful?" he asked. Dan went on to explain that God spoke the world into existence; He could have used any means He wanted in creation. Dan believes God acted with intentionality; it represents the true power of our words. "Our words hold the same power as God's word in that we can create the environment we live and learn in," he said. Proverbs 18:21 says the tongue speaks life or death – one or the other – there is no in-between. We either speak uplifting, life-giving words, or we speak death. Matthew 12 tells us our words show what is in our hearts.

"You have all heard the phrase 'Hurting people hurt people.' That is a true statement," Dan said. People who are dead inside speak death, he continued, but people with the life of Christ inside speak life.

"Think about where your words are coming from," Dan continued. "Your words affect those around you. We are responsible for what we say. 'The words of the wise bring healing.' We can help heal with our words, but too often we make cutting remarks instead." Dan explained what is known as the "negativity bias": negative words affect others three times as much as positive words. "Understand the weight of your words more clearly," Dan admonished. He concluded by urging his audience to remember, "It is your job to create the environment around you. Words that don't mean anything to you may deeply affect someone else."