God created the universe with words and with Word (Gen 1:1, John 1:1-3, Col 1:16). Needless to say, words are powerful.
In a much more limited sense, our words also have power to create. There are certain words that are spoken that just cannot be unspoken because once they are said they create a lasting ripple that cannot be taken back. I am sure you have had the experience of the email you sent that you wish could be retrieved before someone read it, the facebook post that went south or the conversation that really hurt someone in the deepest way possible. In all of those instances something has been created or altered through our words.Words are powerful. They can begin and end wars, start and stop relationships, and affect a person’s self-image their entire life.
The world has always been interested in using words in new and creative ways. This is especially true today. There is an idea out there that our brightest and best are those who know how to use words better than most. There is a high premium placed on those who have something new to say or a new way to spin something old. In all of that rush to speak a new word to ears eager to hear it, retweet it and blog about it, there are a few cautions that I think we all need to consider (maybe you already have).
Three cautions to consider:
First, unlike how God creates (instantaneously), the way we create cannot be rushed. In other words our words cannot and should not be rushed because our ability to perfectly know the outcome of the words we choose is imperfect. God knows the perfect word. We do not. God knows all the consequences of his spoken words…we do not. When we use words, whether in writing or speaking it is important that we chose our words carefully…even prayerfully. Have you ever prayed over your word selection? There are times we should.
Second, there is a rush to find something new to say…to be out in front of the pack. In our rush to stand out it is easy to mistake being edgy, catchy or controversial with substance and deep content. We often wonder if something is catchy or, the knew buzzword, “sticky” but don’t wonder as often if it is wise. We grant ourselves license to say unwise things under the banner of being fresh, subversive or prophetic.
Do we pause to consider and attempt to understand the potential ripple effects that will be created? Have we paused long enough to consider exactly what it is those particular words create…not what you intend for them to create but what they actually would. The real wisdom comes, not from the words that are written or how catchy they are or how many people share them or like them or tweet them…the real wisdom comes in the pause. This is the pause before the click or the talk that takes the words from private to public…from sermon outline to sermon…from post draft to published post…from manuscript to published book. All of these things bear your name and you bear the responsibility for what those words create. So don’t rush it. Instead, choose your words wisely and consider the outcome before you go public.
Third, when God creates through words it has always been by his own perfect authority. In other words, what God intends to create is what is created because he has no competition in power and authority to subvert his will in creation. We don’t have that luxury. When we speak words into something an odd thing happens. Our words are not understood perfectly but are understood based on the perspective and context of the listener. Those contexts and perspectives act as their own authority to take our words and do various things with them that may have been intended or not. Our words do not create by our own authority…instead, they mix with a myriad of other authorities that take our words, unpack them and apply or misapply them. This is why you can mean something entirely loving and helpful and be heard as a complete troll by someone else. Words do not exist outside of context (your own, the listeners and many others). It is vitally important that we consider our audience because it will enable us to chose the right words given our understanding of their context and how the words we chose will be received.
Fourth and final point – we do chose our words. I know that sounds simple and too obvious to state but it is an important point to make. If you have the responsibility of speaking words or writing words publicly (which nearly everyone on earth has now through social media) then you have the reciprocal responsibility to actively and intentionally slow down and choose your words with love, care and wisdom.
So let’s all slow down and make wise decisions when it comes to our words. The world will be a better place for it. And let us never forget that we are someone else’s ambassador, speaking words of reconciliation on behalf of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 5:16-21).