The power of words
In one of my recent communications courses, I asked my students to share an anecdote with the class of a time when they learned a valuable lesson. One student (I'll call her Maria) told us that she had a bad habit of saying things to her friends to tease them. She admitted that sometimes she would even say hurtful things to them. Then, when they acted like she had offended them, she would quickly laugh and say, “Just kidding.”
She said her pastor saw her doing this one time and told her, “You know, Maria, there's no such thing as ‘just kidding.' The words out of our mouth come from our heart. And if you are really honest with yourself, he suggested, you would probably agree that you are saying something that is in your heart.”
She said she thought a lot about what her pastor had said and realized he was right. She admitted that she knew it sounded silly, but she believed that it was like a “free pass” to say the hurtful things, as long as she was quick to smile and say, “Just kidding.”
Maria said she believed that a lot of us think we have that same “free pass” when we're angry at someone. We think that because a person makes us mad, that gives us the right to spew our hurtful words.
Maria ended her anecdote by reminding us that there is no such thing as “just kidding” and “free passes” and that we all need to take care and take responsibility for the words we speak.
Speaking of the words we speak and taking responsibility for them, I was recently reminded about the seriousness of the words we speak when I was reading about the history of the name of “God.”Did you know that in the Old Testament times, the Jews so revered certain names of God that they would only allow designated religious leaders to speak those names out loud, and only then under very specific circumstances.
The common folks would substitute the name of God and put another name in its place, like “The Holy One.” They did this because they were afraid they might somehow slip and speak the real name of God in vain.
This history about mindfulness of speaking the Lord's name does seem to be a far cry from our flippant and casual use of God's name today, doesn't it? There is a phrase that I hear and see in print quite frequently these days. The phrase is “OH! MY! GOD!” We often find God's name spoken or texted without the least bit of reverence or thought about God himself. We have even shortened the phrase so we can email or text it faster “OMG.” I'm sure if you're one of those people that use the trendy expression, you would quickly retort that you don't mean to trivialize God's name. It's just what everyone says.
As we reflect on this idea: “The words that come out of our mouth, proceed from our heart,” would you not agree that we need to think carefully about what we say, and about the power of the words we speak? After all, as my student reminded us, there is no such thing as “just kidding” and “free passes.”
Karen Spencer is a speech/communication and education instructor at Arizona Western College. She can be reached at Karen.email@example.com or check out her blog at http://smallsteps4bigresults.blogspot.com.