The Power of Words

Contributed by Amber Leggette-Aldrich

When I was in high school (back in the dark ages) I absolutely hated English and Literature class. I honestly couldn’t care less about prepositions and dangling participles, or why Edgar Allen Poe and Shakespeare wrote in the styles they did. And I didn’t see the point of learning the difference between AP versus Chicago styles. If anyone had told me back then that I would eventually become an author and freelance writer, I would have laughed in their face!

But alas, I did become a wordsmith, even though it was quite by accident. It actually all started with sharing jokes and stories about my children in an obscure online chatroom back in 2001, as an attempt to diffuse tensions caused by differing political views in the group. I never expected the responses I received, followed by requests for more stories and then suggestions to write a book, which was finally accomplished 11 years later.

One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever been given was when a reader said in a review, “You have a great gift of painting a masterpiece in my heart and mind with your words”. The simple act of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and sharing what was in my soul made a connection with someone I have never met or talked to in such a personal way. And that is exactly why I write.

Through the practice of writing, I have witnessed firsthand the power of words. Words can have a strong impact on our hearts, minds, and spirits, in good or bad ways. We can use words as weapons, or we use them as instruments of healing and encouragement. Think about how you react to hearing or reading about a hero saving a puppy from a fire, or how you feel when someone yells obscenities at you in traffic. We all react from an influence on our emotions to the words we hear or see.

I remember arguments with my sister when we were growing up. Whenever tempers were getting too hot and words were about to lead to physical blows, our mother would put down the iron law: “If you can’t say something nice, then keep your mouth shut”.

Over the years I have learned the value in her law. When we speak, whether with voice or print, we become a narrator that sets the tone in the mind of the listener. So, when our words are negative, derogatory, or hateful, that is where the emotions of the listener go to, and seldom does it facilitate any goodness. On the other hand, when we use words to encourage, uplift, and edify, it sets the stage for positive growth or change.

Last summer I was privileged to witness one of the most heartwarming scenes, when I was visiting family in the south. There was a young man in front of a McDonalds asking passersby for any spare change, so he could get some food. He appeared to be homeless and somewhat depressed, though he managed to smile and give a sincere “thank you” to all that gave change. However, his greatest response came when a little, red-haired girl came up to him with 2 dandelions in her hand, 1 in full yellow bloom, the other already fuzzy and gone to seed. She handed the young man the yellow flower and said, “This is for you because it is beautiful, like your smile”. Then she handed him the fuzzy one and said, “And this one is for you to make a wish on, and I will pray for your wish to come true”. I would say from the tears in his eyes and the smile on his face, that the kind words and loving gesture of that little girl had more of an impact on the young man than all the change in all the pockets of the people in the city that day. In addition, folks nearby who happened to see her deed were also inspired to action in helping the young man. By the time I left, he had food and a job offer.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” - Proverbs 18:21 (KJV)

There is power in our words. Whether for good or evil, it is up to the speaker (or writer) to decide the path. I choose life. What will you choose?