The Power of Words

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In the Boltzmann entry below I mentioned the Tacoma Narrows Bridge disaster. Did I pause to mention it's cause?

Wind. Yes--one of the great structures of contrete and steel was laid low not by the powerful winds of a tornado or a hurricane, but by ordinary gusts channeled throught the neck of the narrows at the right frequency.

Wind--words. As the ordinary wind has this power, so too do the words we choose to say. We can "make" someone's day, equally we can "break" it simply by what we choose to let out of our mouths.

And the scariest part of all of this is that Jesus tells us that it isn't what goes into a person that makes him unclean, but what comes out of the fullness of his heart. And this is why words are so important, so powerful, and so much in need of careful examination and studious consideration. Nothing should leave our lips, ever, that we have cause to regret. If we are uncertain what to say, the best course is to say nothing at all. James warns us that we shall be called to account for every idle word. He does not say that we shall be called to account for those that grace has given us the strength not to say. Good to confess those, but they have not been unleashed in the whirlwind of words to damage others. We are accountable for the thoughts, but not if we don't brood on them. At most they are an imperfection of our nature--something to be weeded out.

But let's face it. Daily we let loose with a torrent of words that have varying purposes, meanings, and effects. We don't much think about the harm they can do when we make a cutting remark. We don't much consider how our spouses or children might consider not just the word but the tone of what we say.

Words are the human wind that can bring down the Tacoma Narrows bridge. We can choose to gossip and destroy a reputation. We can repeat things that have not been verified and tear a person apart. Because we do not know the strength of the bridge and because we can do nothing about it once the forces are in motion, perhaps we would do better to think carefully about what we have to say--and when it is hurtful to choose not to say it.

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I have this quote from Dr. Haim G. Ginott taped inside my gradebook:

"I have come to a frightening conclusion. I am the decisive element in the classroom. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher I possess tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or de-humanized."

This applies to everyone everywhere too.



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on September 24, 2003 5:53 PM.

Gross Incivility was the previous entry in this blog.

A Particularly Difficult Trial Tomorrow is the next entry in this blog.

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