The Power of Words

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

—2 Corinthians 4:17-18


The Indian writer and painter Rabindranath Tagore said, “The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life.” Tagore was a persuasive advocate for Indian independence, though he did not live to see the 1947 milestone achieved. He devoted his years to benefiting future generations. As his quote implies, no legacy is more worthwhile than bettering the world for others.

Paul told the Corinthians the same thing in his second epistle to them. Paul tells them, “For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” There are many things that we do that we will never realize the lasting effect they have on others. Maybe you provide an example for a young LGBTQ+ individual who sees you as a role model, and without knowing it, you provide them with a positive example of acceptance. You might give someone encouragement and tell them how much you appreciate the good job they did or how helpful they were. That can give someone a confidence that you may never see. All of you have probably planted a seed in someone’s mind that changed their life for the better, whether that was through showing someone acceptance or giving them confidence. That seed may grow into a mighty tree, but you may never see it or realize it.

The opposite can also be true. We also have to be careful with the legacy we leave behind. You may never know when you have said something to another person that it might effect them in a negative way. You may not have meant to, and if that’s the case, you may never know you did it. When I was a teenager, I worked hard to have perfect grades, to be involved in as many things academically as possible, and I was proud of my accomplishments. A lady once told my mother that I “sure was full of myself.” Meaning that I thought a lot of myself and implying that I was a braggart and conceited. When my mother told me that, I was devastated. I had only answered what the woman had asked me. It destroyed my confidence for a long time. If I “tooted my own horn” would others think badly of me. I felt as if I needed to downplay a lot about myself, and that led to me not being confident in my accomplishments. It took a long time for me to be confident again, and I’m still not always as confident as maybe I should be.

Under present social conditions, with the continuous increment in hate speech, be it targeted on grounds of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or religion, we need to consider what we say before we say it. How will what we say effect others? People often speak very comfortably and impulsively without realizing if certain words or the way we use them have an inherent negative meaning attached to them. If such a case causes a miscommunication then it may lead to disastrous consequences. so, thinking before speaking is a necessity for people to be a better person.

Fran Lebowitz, known for her sardonic social commentary on American life, is quoted as saying, “Think before you speak…read before you speak.” The continuous negativity in speech has ended up subjecting humankind to a vicious toxic circle, one that cannot be done away with until we speak consciously and think before we speak. The writer William Arthur Ward said, “Before you speak, listen. Before you write, think. Before you spend, earn…before you criticize, wait.” While words have the miraculous power to heal, they also have the power to topple the world. Voltaire said, “Everything you say should be true, but not everything true should be said.” We live and breathe in words. Sometimes words make us smile, sometimes they make us cry, sometimes they pierce through us to an extent that we never forget the hurt they caused. The Irish missionary and writer Amy Carmichael, gave this advice, “Let nothing be said about anyone unless it passes through the three sieves: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?”

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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