Words have the power to hurt and to heal. They can drive someone to despair just as easily as they can evoke a spirit of enthusiasm. They can inspire and they can destroy.
Although most of us utter many words every day without much conscious thought beforehand, if we were cognizant of the vast impact one single word can make on another person, perhaps we would think more before speaking.
We may pay lip service to the suggestion -- or, at times, even the admonishment -- that we think before we speak, but how many of us truly do? How often do you find yourself saying something, only to regret a moment later that you said it? Each time we chastise ourselves for saying the wrong thing, we intend to do better. Yet, we don't. Why? Because we understand the fact that we need to think before we speak with our minds but not with our hearts.
We assume that our words, however ill-chosen they have been, will remain just that -- words. We underestimate their power in part because we don't want to acknowledge it. But words are thoughts, verbalized. And many of us do admit that the thoughts we think can have an enormous influence on our lives.
The difference in thoughts and words is that, although thought may be just as spontaneous as speech, thoughts remain private. Yet a word, once spoken, cannot be taken back.
And it isn't merely others that our words have an effect upon - they also affect our selves. For just as we may sometimes use words as weapons to wound others, we can use them in the same way to wound our selves. And just as a knife or gun or similar weapon does injury to the body, so a malicious, virulent, hateful word does harm to the soul.
Yet we pay heed to bodily injuries - for not only are they visible and physically painful - they can also be fatal. But cannot certain words murder the spirit?
In Proverbs from the Bible, we are told that "a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver."
How would our lives and relationships to those around us change if we began to consciously think about the words we use? How would our perception of ourselves change if we more carefully chose the words we say to ourselves?
When we remind ourselves of the impact that a single word can have, perhaps we would be more inclined not merely to say we should think before we speak but to actually do so.