Side profile portrait of young angry man screaming with alphabet letters flying out of wide open mouth isolated on gray wall background

(Source: Dollar Photo Club)

“I can’t believe I just said that.”

Have you ever said something and immediately wished you could’ve “unsaid” it? We’ve all been there. Sometimes our “self-editor” takes a day off when we need it the most. But when you think about it, it’s actually surprising it doesn’t happen more. Why? Well, the odds.

What I mean is, we say a lot of words every day. As a matter of fact, on average, just in the last 24 hours you will have spoken about 16,000 words. With numbers like that, the chances of you saying something that would’ve been better left unsaid are high.

And here’s why that’s important to realize: Solomon, the world’s wisest man, explains, “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.”

No pressure.

But we all know it’s true. Think back to those who spoke to your potential, praised you for a job well done, or spoke words of comfort or good advice during a tough time. Those words shaped you. In the same way, think back to the words directed towards you that communicated that you were a “mistake, failure, or worthless.” Those words shaped you as well, but in a much different way. Our words have the power and capacity to bring life to dreams, potential, and relationships. Or they can kill them.

If you look at the definition of what a word is, it’s “a unit of language that functions as a principal carrier of meaning.” In other words: words matter.

“I once read that a word is like a living organism, capable of growing, changing, spreading, and influencing the world in many ways, directly and indirectly through others,” Dr. Susan Smalley says.

“As I ponder the power of the word to incite and divide, to calm and connect, or to create and effect change, I am ever more cautious in what I say and how I listen to the words around me,” she adds.

So as we consider the power our words hold, let’s look at some easy ways to make better use of the 16,000 words we speak each day.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” Truth always wins especially when it is spoken lovingly. Sometimes we can mishandle truth and use it as a vehicle for criticism. What we have to remember is that we can force people to listen to our words, but the right to be heard is earned. The truth, when spoken lovingly, plants seeds of life.

Everyone needs encouragement. There are enough voices telling us what we’re not and others pointing out our mistakes. Be the one who sets aside some of the 16,000 words to encourage someone daily. No one will ever resent that you encouraged them too much. “…so speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind… just keep on doing it.” (1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:9-11‬)

The fact is, the closer we are to someone, the more we see imperfections in them. But if there’s anything that transcends culture, education, or income level, it’s our brokenness. We’re all broken. Let’s find ways to repurpose some of our 16,000 words to speak words of life into humanity’s brokenness instead of simply criticizing it.

Ponder those as you read this final quote.

“Criticism and pessimism destroy families, undermine institutions of all kinds, defeat nearly everyone, and spread a shroud of gloom over entire nations.” – G. Hinckley

How are you going to use your 16,000 words today?

David Martin is the Youth and Culture Strategist for I Am Second. (Connect with David on social media: @realDavidMartin)

How have words shaped you and how can you use your words to speak life to those around you today? Share in comments below.

Watch how Lecrae made the decision to use his words to speak life instead of death.