I’ve been thinking about this idea more today since it seems to have taken me down a rabbit hole. I was pondering why it is that we often try to dissuade ourselves or others from thinking our words have power. Why do we seemingly throw away this power, or how is this power kept from us in seemingly innocuous ways?
It struck me that our words, the ability to communicate our thoughts through both writing and drawing, and our innate need for storytelling might be one of the biggest things which separates us from other primates, and other animals species. Plenty of other animals create tools, have language, and communicate to each other, but we are the only ones who have created communication through storytelling.
Storytelling has many uses. It can teach us the dangers of certain places and situations, passed down through generations; it creates a narrative for us as humans, for the world around us, and tells us how we fit together; and it has the ability to make sure our collective memory is kept alive. Before we had the ability to write, we began to story tell verbally, then with drawing, and today with writing as well.
One reason I can see for our lack of understanding when it comes to the power of our words is the mere fact that we use them all the time. Everything we do requires our language. From purchasing a cup of coffee to writing a presidential speech, our language is just essential in everything we do. This maybe makes us think that it’s not important. But it is!
Every interaction we have throughout the day is an opportunity for us to conceive the power of our words. We have the power to make or break someone’s day with a “hello,” or a “thank you.” Small kindnesses or meannesses given out in passing through our words send powerful messages to the world. The tiniest encouragement or put down, said at the exact right moment in someone’s life can have an enormous effect on their psyche.
Think of one time when you felt incredibly shamed by someone else. I bet that moment involved either intentional, or very possibly unintentional, cruel or critical words directed at you. Now think of a time when you felt incredibly lifted up and empowered by someone. I bet that also involved words directed at you, but probably with more intention on the other person’s part.
The right or wrong words can start or end careers, take us to the moon or keep our feet on the earth. They can start a war (the Holocaust was started with the words which communicated the ideas of a charismatic speaker) or begin peace. They can create a country’s backbone (our constitution), and one word can be the difference between slavery and freedom.
Our history is full of times when different people were quieted because those in power feared their words. Women and children were supposed to be SEEN and not HEARD. Slaves had to use special songs to tell of the journey to freedom because they could lose their lives for speaking of it. Countless crimes against humanity have been perpetrated to keep select groups of people silent. That is how powerful words are, that so many people have died for the right to speak, and that our first Amendment specifically protects free speech.
Words Are Power above all other types of power, and are more forceful weapons than any nuclear warhead. So use your power wisely please. Start by making someone feel important today, rather than lousy. And maybe one day you’ll find your words have changed the world.