The Power of Words

Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29

As someone who writes and speaks vocationally, I am well acquainted with the power of words and the dangers of tongue and pen. This awareness also guides me to weigh words carefully,  seeking to do no harm and whenever possible to lift up and offer hope. How I craft what I write and how I proclaim the good news in preaching and teaching is of great importance. I am also painfully aware that I fall pitifully short of communication perfection and have snarky, insensitive moments just like all human beings. But I do try to be judicious and sensitive to others’ views and thoughts.

So that’s why I’ve been particularly appalled by conservative commentator Ann Coulter’s recent toxic tweet and verbal vomit. If you’ve been blessed not to hear about it and want to know what I’m talking about click here. The comment is repugnant on several levels. First, it is a gross misuse of the word and an insult to the many courageous individuals who live meaningful lives and accomplish great things in spite of intellectual disabilities. Secondly, it shows a lack of respect for the office of president regardless of the opinion of the officeholder. And finally, it is simply in extremely poor taste. Peddling ignorance and fomenting hate is a pathetic way to try to get any point across.

Ms. Coulter is a bright, attractive, and generally articulate woman. She didn’t get to her current place in media land by being a slacker. That said, comments like this one strip her of all dignity, authority, and well, frankly, good manners. To make it even worse, apparently she doesn’t care, and that is sad because she is in a place to make a positive difference with her voice and to use her celebrity for good rather than as blatant self-aggrandizing commentary.

I wish Ms. Coulter no ill will and hope she is somehow brought to a place of humility and growth so that her gifts and talents can be used to build up and edify rather than to destroy and spread venom like some malcontent teenage “mean girl.” I suspect, however, that she does not care what I think, and that’s o.k., too. We are blessed with great freedom, including freedom of choice and voice.

Ms. Coulter, if you care at all how to choose and use words well, then please take to heart what John Franklin Stephens wrote in his open letter to you (click here). Mr. Stephens writes with clarity, compassion, and style–and he has overcome significant odds to develop his gifts and strong voice. We can all take a lesson from him.

Oh, and it probably wouldn’t hurt to remember the words of that old Sunday school song (and yes, I’m updating the language to be inclusive):

O be careful little mouth what you say

O be careful little mouth what you say

The Creator’s up above

And is looking down in love

So, be careful little mouth what you say

The pen and the mouth are powerful tools. May we all use them to the best of our ability and for the good and edification of all our sisters and brothers. What we say and write does matter. I am so thankful for the many people in positions of authority and power who do use their words for good.

I’ll give the last words to the first century orator and apostle Paul, who wrote to a young leader by the name of Titus:

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone. (Titus 3:1-2)

Photos by Alicia VargasGage Skidmore, Yoko, and The World of Special Olympics. Thanks!

6 thoughts on “The Power of Words

  1. I always value your words cousin – whether written or spoken. Thanks for the many times you’ve spoken courage into me – and I know you do the same for countless others. I know at times it is very hard to be positive, but I’ve watched you position yourself and wait for the right words to come. And they do……

  2. Pastor Sharron, I love starting my day with your blogs! So uplifting and inspirational. Great reminders. And, as I anxiously wait during the week for a new blog, I go back and read the archived blogs.

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