Just in time to help readers who might want to resolve in the coming year to pay closer attention to their language, two January books from religion publishers address the topic of the words we use and their effect on those who hear them, for good or ill.
The subject might be more important than many of us realize. A 2011 study involving 223 middle school students addressed the correlation between profanity in the media and aggression in kids. The study showed exposure to cursing had the same effect as exposure to violence on TV or in video games. “From using profanity to aggressive behavior, it was a pretty strong correlation,” according to study leader Sarah Coyne.
In Tongue Pierced: How the Words You Speak Transform the Life You Live (David C. Cook), Nelson Searcy, lead pastor of The Journey Church in New York City, encourages people to live a “tongue pierced” lifestyle, one in which words “reflect a heart filled with love; words that will impact your reality in ways that will bring you the meaning, relationships and success you want,” Searcy writes. He examines the power of words, how they reflect on the speaker, and the impact on loved ones, explaining how children in particular need to hear encouraging, empowering words.
“Your words have immense power to shape your children’s destiny,” writes Searcy. “What you say gives them the script for how they view themselves, which will largely determine their success in life’s various arenas.”
How can people become more intentional about the words they use? “The first step is simply awareness of how the words we use can have a positive impact on those around us and on ourselves,” Searcy tells PW. “Most people, when they stop to reflect, know intuitively that our words impact other people. What is so shocking for many in this ‘awareness’ step is how their words also impact their own heart, soul, spirit, and mind.” Searcy points to Jesus’ teaching from Luke 6:45. “When our hearts are pure, our words are pure,” Searcy says. “When our hearts are negative or critical, so are our words.”
Karen Ehman, speaker, blogger, and author with Proverbs 31 Ministries, also references the Bible’s teachings in Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All (Zondervan), which is directed at women. Ehman tells PW that “words are powerful, and they have consequences. They can build or break, bless or badger, encourage or embitter; the choice is up to us.” The book addresses not only what women say to others, but also their interior dialogue.
Notes Ehman, “Our mouths speak what our hearts have stashed. When someone bumps us, threatening to knock the nice right out of us, what is already inside will spill out.” She says people should “store up grace and kindness, while recognizing our hearts are fickle. Don’t say something just because you are temporarily ticked off. Words are valuable, powerful, permanent. Invest them wisely.”