As I was growing up, many of us kids would say to each other the adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” How wrong this adage is because words can hurt. Our words matter. Let’s muse a little on how words affect us and what effect our words have on others.
Words have such power. Our words can foster love or our words can foster hate. A simple greeting card with uplifting words can bolster our spirits and make us feel special. A poster board sign that spews messages of hate can inflict pain and incite violence. Words are everywhere and can carry messages of hope and despair, laughter and tears, or understanding and bewilderment.
In the beginning of a child’s life, we often express words of love, comfort, and joy. At the end of a person’s life, we can express words of comfort, peace, and forgiveness. Words can be endearing and heartbreaking.
Poets and writers delight us with their words of inspiration, with stories that speak to the human spirit and of the human condition. They use words that invite us to think critically, to feel tenderly, to imagine possibilities, and to understand phenomenon. Politicians use words to influence and persuade us to vote for or against a person or issue. Historians use words to reveal facts, lies, and information about the past, to chronicle events, people, and issues confronting individuals and societies. Words can be used for many different purposes.
Words have the power to affect positive change or ignite negative actions. Words can engender hope or tear down dreams. We have seen the power of words by individuals who have confronted injustice and challenged or inspired us with statements, such as:
- “You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.” (Rosa Parks)
- “With guns you can kill terrorists, with education you can kill terrorism.” (Malala Yousafzai)
- “The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?” (Dorothy Day)
- “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” (Mother Teresa)
- “The measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need, those who have nothing apart from their poverty!” (Pope Francis)
We have seen how words can change the world by what world leaders say. One example is Ronald Reagan’s words, “Tear down this wall” to the leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, referring to the barrier that divided West and East Berlin. Or, these two memorable quotes by Martin Luther King, Jr. had the power of shining a light on the plight of racism in America—“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that” and “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Here are other noteworthy quotes that had an impact on world affairs.
Words make a difference and we can choose to use words either to affirm or harm others. What words will you use today to build a kingdom of love?
If you’re eager to use your words to be peace, preach peace, and build peace as a religious sister, we invite you to contact one of our Vocation Ministers to start a conversation.