A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! Think about this: A small flame can set a whole forest on fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. –James 3. 5-6, The Message
If you’re like me, you are probably weary of all the words being spoken in this election season. There are just so many words spoken by our candidates, their surrogates, and the ads that run constantly. The words are too often laced with violence and vitriol. That word “vitriol” means, “something highly caustic or severe in effect.”
So is it any wonder that we have a collective sense of foreboding in our world? I had a friend who works in the medical profession tell me that they have seen an upswing in people coming in with medical concerns all related to stress. It would seem that our words and the words of others not only have a stinging emotional effect, they also impact our health. And the Letter of James goes a step further and tells us that our words can “ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke.”
Of course, the remedy is not an easy one. It seems to me that since we cannot change the words of others, our first step might be to start with our own words. So, let’s covenant to follow the advice of Don Miguel Ruiz in his book, The Four Agreements, to practice the first agreement, to “be impeccable with your word.” What would it cost us to think before we speak and consider the impact our word or words might have on others? It wouldn’t cost a dime. Secondly, why not try turning off the noise, the television, the radio, social media? Okay, if unable to do that then perhaps just limit the time spent listening to all the words of this election season. Third, why don’t we fill our minds and hearts with words that fill us with hope, love, joy and peace? After all, the Apostle Paul urged us to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” (Romans. 12.2) Perhaps we could repeat a phrase or a sentence silently or out loud. One of my favorites is from the great mystic Julian of Norwich. In a vision she saw the earth as a whole and heard the words, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, every manner of thing shall be well.” Or, if that doesn’t work, try reading a poem or devotional aloud and see if hearing those words doesn’t change your heart, mind and soul, and give you strength for the day.
I believe that if we even try to do those things or even one of those things we will find ourselves filled with more hope and joy, we will discover that we have more peace, and we will be able to offer love to others. And that, my friends, can change our world.
Holy One, remind me today that my words matter and help me use them for good and not for evil. Amen.