The Way You Use Words Determines the Culture You Create

Words create worlds.

Words are powerful, and the way you use them determines the culture you create. It’s true in a business organization, it’s true in church life, and it’s true in the home. I am recognizing more and more the sheer power that language plays in all these arenas, but this weekend I became more acutely aware of the “home” area. But we weren’t at home this weekend. We were camping.

And, admittedly, I’m not a great camper. I’m trying to learn how to be because my oldest son is, in fact, a really great camper. But by the time I got to night 2 with my 3 kids, staring down a night in the 30′s, with everyone drawing their energy from hot dogs and just a few hours sleep, my patience was running thin. And because it was, my words were running thick. I said some things that I shouldn’t have said.

It was one of those moments when, directly after a statement is made, you wish you could have it back. I knew it was too much, too direct, and the way I knew it was by how good it felt. I felt so righteous and so justified, and I know my heart; the vast majority of the time when I feel that way something has gone haywire.

But words are powerful; you can’t take them back no matter how much you wish you could. Once it’s been said, it’s been forever said. And words have a way of lodging themselves in our memories. They set up camp deep inside our minds and stay there.

So what do you do when you can’t take the words back?

You recognize the power of words, and you use them again.

James wrote about the power of words in chapter 3 of the book that bears his name:

Now when we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide the whole animal. And consider ships: Though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites. And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell. Every sea creature, reptile, bird, or animal is tamed and has been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil full of deadly poison (James 3:3-8).

Though James was instructing us about the negative potential of words, the power works both ways. Granted, a positive use of words might not necessarily be equivalent to the negative, but the power still remains:

Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18:21).

When you can’t take the words back, make sure the next ones are ones you don’t want to:

“I’m sorry.”

“Please forgive me.”

“I was wrong.”

These are words that flow so much harder from the tongue than the ones of impatience and anger, but these words have power, too. Don’t neglect that power while you’re mourning what’s already been said.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Kelley

I’m a Christ-follower, husband, dad, author and speaker. Thanks for stopping here to dialogue with me about what it means to live deeply in all the arenas of life. I live in Nashville, Tennessee, with my wife Jana who is living proof of the theory that males are far more likely to marry over their heads than females are. We have three great kids, Joshua (5) and Andi (3), and Christian (less than 1). They remind me on a daily basis how much I have to grow in being both a father and a child. I work full time for Lifeway Christian Resources, where I’m a Bible study editor. I also get out on the road some to speak in different churches, conferences and retreats.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

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