Did you know that you can be arrested for inciting a riot or disturbing the peace if you shout the word “fire” in a theatre when there is no fire? The reason lies in the power of the word. The word invokes an image and an idea in the listeners mind. This idea causes the listener to act in response to the word. In this case causing unnecessary panic. Thus, the power of a word.
I was thinking about the power of words recently. I have been in the midst of elementary students who say things to one another that are not intentionally hurtful but hurt nonetheless. It’s at those times I think of an old childhood saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Of course someone, perhaps from my generation, realized words DO hurt and sometimes they are equally as painful as sticks and stones. But the rhyme is so ingrained in my memory I still resort to it, even though I know it isn’t true. Fortunately for this younger generation the rhyme is no longer passed around as a valid resolution. Kids are currently being taught to use their words in a way that expresses what they feel as opposed to acting on those feelings.
Even so, I believe something is still missing from our coping skill attache: The concept that words hold power. Words are so powerful that those who struggle to read and write will struggle to succeed. Words can effect our emotional and mental health. Just like the rhyme that was ingrained in my memory when I was a kid, words can trigger insecurities that keep us in bondage regardless of the truth. Words can also heal. Saying a meaningful “I’m sorry.” for instance can turn a hurting heart down the path to forgiveness.
Words can empower. It’s been proven over and over again that speech can empower to succeed or discourage to defeat. Muhammad Ali was known for speaking defeating remarks to his opponents. One of his most famous quotes was aimed at George Foreman in a 1974 fight, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see. Now you see me, now you don’t. George thinks he will, but I know he won’t.” Ali’s rhetoric not only worked as psychological warfare to undermine his opponents but it proved a self-empowerment tool for himself. Ali became an Olympic Gold Medalist and a Professional Boxing World Champion.
I’m not saying all of this happened only because of his words, but Ali’s words did work to his advantage. Starting out as an underdog in the professional boxing arena, Muhammad Ali became one of the most well-known boxers not just because of his skills in the ring but also because of his words.
Words have power. We never think about it that way. However if you think about the fact that everything that exists today started as a word, a thought, in the mind of the inventor. They began to envision the invention and then they invented. A chair was just a tree until the carpenter imagined that it could be something more.
Many people today practice envisioning as a way to create the business they want or the lifestyle they want. The secular world is very clear that they believe envisioning is a powerful tool that leads to success. Athletes are trained to imagine themselves practicing their sport over and over again. Entrepreneurs practice envisioning their success. Meditation teaches its practitioners to set their intentions and to meditate on words. Monks are convinced the Gregorian chant will make your life better. All of this thought incorporates the practice of speaking out words of empowerment, success, and vision. Goal setters are taught to write down their goals and recite affirmations out loud.
Why? This is probably the most important part. Because, as quantum physics has taught us, everything that exists is due to the vibration of molecules. Mass is determined by the frequency of those vibrations. We can’t always see with the naked eye the vibration. But we can see the result of them as clearly as we can see tears running down the face of a kindergartener after a school mate has called them a name. Sound is also a form of vibrational energy and words spoken are the building blocks for our reality.
Words have the power to create. As a writer, words invoke emotions and meaning. The words of a song can bring on a memory so vivid you can smell the scents of the memory. When thinking a scary thought your body will react as if the actual experience is happening. In the same manner thinking relaxing thoughts can cause you to feel calm. Words can paint a picture. For example, imagine yourself walking on a cool path in the forest with a light breeze blowing and the smell of the earth rising into your nostrils. The sun is poking through the tree tops and rays of light are shining onto the forest floor. No doubt you can picture a very specific scene. This is the magic of words.
In fact that is one of the reasons when the Bible states that God said, “Let there be light.” and then there was light, I believe it to be true. John 1:1-4 ESV says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” God speaking the world into existence doesn’t seem so far-fetched to me when I think about the power our words contain.
The Bible also says in Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.
When I think about the power we have each day. I realize we can change the world with a single word: