Power of Words

Life would be nearly impossible without words. We learn, by listening, reading, and speaking words – words are a gift. Let’s look at the Power of Words by using two metaphors; one being a ship’s rudder and the other the wind.

All four walls in my office are filled with ocean scenes with ships or boats. People assume I like ships and boats when it’s the ocean I’m fond of. Give me white sand, salt water, the sounds and surf, seagulls and pelicans – life’s good. Ships and boats are also interesting. Take the ship’s rudder for instance. Very small compared to its structure and overall mass, yet, big enough to direct, guide and maneuver the vessel. Similarly, think about our tongue, quite a small muscle in contrast to others that make up the body. Words commanded by the tongue direct, guide and maneuver our lives and can steer us off course, get us lost or in trouble, or move us through to safe destinations.

Just as we find insights into words like tongue and rudder, we can find another connection between words themselves and the wind.

My daughter came home for Spring break last month. She was traveling on Interstate 65 and just missed, by about 15-20 minutes, the tornado that took out Henryville, Indiana. My wife and I talked to her a couple of hours before the disaster and then lost contact until it passed through. Those could have been our last words. As she was driving through the area she reported the side of the road looked like an automobile graveyard. She said a semi-truck looked crumpled up like it had been picked up and thrown down and stomped on. Hannah did her best to describe the scene but I’m guessing no words could clearly convey her experience. My daughter and the people of Henryville didn’t see the wind that day; they did see the effects of the wind.

By contrast have you seen or just imagine the gentle sway of weeping willow branches or a flower filled meadow. Now think about a warm breeze creating a playful ripple effect in a sun-soaked wheat field. And what about the amazing power of the wind mill? The world’s largest wind turbine as they’re called has a rotor diameter of 413 feet! The E-126 is officially rated at 6 megawatts. That’s enough energy to sustain 1,776 American homes per year on one wind turbine. That’s constructive power!

Words are a lot like the wind. You can’t see words, but you can see, and experience the effects of words.

Like a calm, windless day, words at times can have little effect at all. “I’m Sorry” and “I love you” have their fair share of lifelessness if actions fail to follow intent. Words, like the wind, can be constructive or destructive, helpful or harmful, humorous or horrendous. Careless, caustic and manipulative words can degrade, shame and destroy someone’s worth and value. Many times this individual personifies a tornado – they enter a situation or circumstance, create destruction and pain and then move on. The person like the tornado never looks back to recognize… “what just happened, what did I do?” Whether, fear, ignorance, insecurity, pride manipulation or whatever the struggle behind the words, the receiver will experience the effects.

Now, think about kind, compassionate, instructive and inspiring words that build respect, worth and value. This person would resemble the wind behind a kite. Winston Churchill said “Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.” Share words that lift up, challenge and move people to a higher place. When the winds of adversity blow, they may need encouragement, support or just a simple compliment. Kites are fun too. Maybe a play on words, a joke or words that make for entertaining conversation is the needed effect.

In closing, whether wind or rudder we are the control center for our speech and the words we create. Like the rudder words direct, guide and steer our life effectively, or take us off course into harms way.  Like the wind words can be uneventful, constructive or destructive.

Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” The choice is yours – may you use your words wisely.

Copyright © 2013 Dan Pugel

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