Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Power Words

There are times when I choose my words very carefully. Other times I throw out whatever my mind is thinking. Seldom do I realize the power of my words until long after they were said or written.

Some times the effect of our words can be funny, like when I mispronounce a word or use words that others do not understand. That actually happened to me as a new bride (although it was my husbands word that was misunderstood). I would fix dinner and ask him how it was. He almost always said "Pretty good." He did not use it as an exclamation so I considered it to be only an average meal. So , the next night I would try harder with the same resulting evaluation. I began to feel hurt. I also felt guilty for not being able to please him. It wasn't until I asked where his "Pretty good" fell on a scale of 1 to 10 that I found out his "Pretty good" was my "Excellent!" His words had power over me and my unspoken words also held power over our relationship.

There are other times when my words have been offered with the best of intentions but with harsh consequences. Last Thanksgiving I was busy taking picture of family in various groupings. I called my sister, her husband and my sisters children over for a picture, not knowing that not including my brother-in-laws adult children in this particular picture would create a deep wedge in our relationship. Months later I learned through the grape vine that his avoidance of me was because of that one picture. Though I had next called the rest of the family together the damage was already done. I apologized and we are now back to being buddies. He did not realize what my true intentions were. My words and actions were not intended to hurt. But they did.

I expect power from my words when I pray over and think through them as when I write a letter, article, or poem. Disappointment can seep into my soul when these heartfelt words bring no reaction or just a cursory "How nice." I can also be surprised and taken back when the power of my communication results in an outburst from the other person. The truth communicated is not meant to cause harm or set in motion a tidal wave of events that pour out trouble and confusion and guilt. It is these times, when my heavily mined words are not treasured or looked upon as valuable for understanding, that I consider holding back in the future.

To close off my thoughts from others is dishonest. No, I am not one who speaks out every thought in my head, or insists that people hear and agree with me on every point, but I do like to be allowed my opinion, just like everyone does. If I stay silent, others will think I agree with them even if I don't. If I stay silent I am also not being true to myself. The truth is I must speak out with understanding caution and in love.

When I speak out, I must understand that people may misunderstand my intentions and/or what I've tried to say. I must try to be cautious in laying everything on the line knowing that there may be a ripple that will last a long time if not forever. Of course there should always be hope that the ripple will draw the listeners and those affected to a better place. Above all I should have love in my heart so that the words of truth are spoken in love and for the best of the hearer. This does not mean that the words can't sting or that the listener will perceive the love behind the words, but my heart will be right before God, who knows my intentions.

Above all, the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart should be pleasing to my Lord and my God. With that in proper order, I am free to speak for that is what I have been called to do.
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