We all know words have weight. We’ve experienced their weight ourselves – especially when they have cut and seared and carved deep grooves into our tender hearts. Hopefully we have also experienced the weight of positive words in our lives, words that have helped us imagine a new and beautiful future that may even have come to pass. But the harsh reality is that the weight of negative words seem to tip the scales farther than the weight of positive words. I’ve heard it said that for every negative word carving up our lives, it takes nine positive words to begin to heal the wound. Negative words weigh more. They just do.
Thing is, sometimes those negative words don’t even need to be heard by our ears. Sometimes those negative words can be read, not in black letters on a white page, but in the language of a body speaking weighty, oh so weighty words. We’ve probably all witnessed or experienced it sometime or other – two or three people whispering, exclaiming and rolling their eyes behind their hands, and it isn’t hard to figure out they likely are not discussing the weather or speaking encouraging words to each other.
I’ve talked with enough people and had enough experience of my own to know this is a real thing. Countless people, real people with hurts already deep enough, have been even more deeply wounded by words both spoken and portrayed. And while it may not affect me personally like it used to, there are many, many among us who continue to be deeply affected by this language. Just because someone didn’t actually hear what was said doesn’t mean they can’t be hurt by those words. No, people know and it matters. Our words and actions, even though they may not be directed at someone, have the power to do severe damage in an individual’s life.
On the other hand, positive, life-giving words also have weight and can be used for building each other up, for speaking truth in love permeated with grace, for pointing each other to the One and only Jesus. Even our body language can a positive influence, especially when our posture is open and free, inviting others into relationship and connection without so much as a word. We can learn how to do this and make a difference in the life of every person we meet. I’ve been in the company of people who exude openness and connection and most times it’s not in the words they say, but in the way they handle themselves, that draws me to them. It’s their body language that speaks loudest. No wonder, as the old saying goes, more is caught than taught.
So I guess this is a challenge to all of us – to me most of all – to be careful with the way we speak – both with our words and with our body language. The future of our world depends on it – that’s how much it matters. Maybe sometime soon I’ll talk about that part of it. Yes, I believe our words carry that much weight – our words literally shape our world and the world of those around us. Will it be for good? Or will it be for ill? We have the power to shape our world. How will we do it? Speak life-giving words of encouragement to someone today. Start with yourself if you need to. If we don’t speak those words to ourselves, we will find it difficult, if not impossible, to speak them to others.