If you're a writer or a reader, you already know the power of words. You know how intentional every preposition, conjunction, and adjective must be. You know the importance of carefully placed punctuation so that just the right emotion is conveyed.
And if you're a speaker in any capacity - educating, motivating, preaching, or even story-telling - you also understand the power behind a word. Every inflection in your voice can transform a yawning audience to one captivated by your voice.
But for the average person who may not deal with words as a focus, the art of using them may be nearly lost. Not that the average person doesn't care, but more like they don't understand.
You see, words have power. And not just regular power to describe situations, define emotions, or communicate a schedule. They have superpowers. They have the power to bring life or death.
Yup. I said it. Actually Proverbs said it first. It's stated as "the tongue can bring death or life," but I'm re-saying it, because, well, I think most people either don't know this or don't apply it.
Words have the ability to do incredible damage to another person. (Think: "I hate you," "You serve no purpose," You were never wanted," and "You're a disappointment.") Or they can give immeasurable encouragement to that same person. (Think: "I'm proud of you," "You did the right thing," "I understand," and "I love you.")
And since abuse and trauma victims are the ones I relate most closely to, if we put the use of words in relationship to those hurting souls, there's even more of a need for intentionality. We, as victims, have already been treated so carelessly in the past by others, we need others to be deliberate and compassionate with their every word. It's surpasses just the desire to have kind things said to us and becomes a necessity.
Abuse survivors are constantly fighting against the words in our own minds. Words that try to convince us to stay quiet. Or to be ashamed. Or to live in fear. Yet some of the simplest phrases can be used to affirm a hurting soul and people choose not to use them. Instead they choose the hurtful ones, never understanding the detriment caused.
Or maybe they do.
Phrases like, "I believe you" are swapped for "Are you sure?" "I'm so sorry that happened" for "I just can't believe that happened." And "What can I do?" for "It's good that's in the past."
Those little switches don't seem like a big deal. Some times, they are even said with good intention, not realizing the weight behind them. But those little switch-outs are the difference between a heart feeling validated and safe versus a heart feeling insecure and unheard.
Those little switches specifically undermine an abuse victim's story in subtle ways, almost unnoticeably by an untrained person. They make us feel like maybe we got it wrong, we're being too sensitive or just misunderstood our perpetrator's actions. They discredit the victim and move that person from scrambling to find life to fighting against their emotional death.
Just like the superpowers you see in movies, words are weapons and can be used similarly - to defend, protect, and set prisoners free. Or they can impale, incapacitate, and obliterate. Words spoken into a person can be the difference between that life lived to it's fullest potential or that life being mediocre at best.
As people that walk this earth, our very existence gives us the superpower to heal or destroy. And we're so very cavalier with it. Speaking without thought. Lashing out. Questioning instead of trusting.
Words have meaning. We can't just say whatever we want then backtrack and erase the damage done. We can't just blurt things out and expect our intention to be known. Every word means something, so we have to be deliberate. We must view our superpower as a gift and practice using it in ways that edify souls.
And that also means using this superpower to speak life into our own hearts and minds as well.
If you don't know what a word means, look it up before you use it in a sentence. And if you don't know how to support a broken person, find out how before trying to help.
Because we have this ability, whether you know it or not, whether you want it or not. We have this ability to impact lives with the words we choose.
So just choose to say the right thing.