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The Power of Words

I’m a writer. I also read a lot. So words are important in my life, and I am aware of the beauty and power that words can carry. As most of us are surely aware, words have the power to raise people up but they also have the power to tear someone down. So we should always – and in all ways – choose our words carefully. Jesus reminds us that words are a reflection of what is in our heart.

In writing the Prayers of the People for this week I refer to our hearts being the wellspring of God’s truth and love within us. I like the metaphor of a wellspring – the source of clear water and thinking about how good and refreshing and pure water tastes when its source is clear and unpolluted. That is how our words can be for one another – words that encourage, empower and inspire the best in us. This of course, is dependent upon the clear and pure condition of our heart. I love the words of the psalmist longing for God to create within a clean heart and a right spirit, A lot is riding on such a desire because it is, as Jesus says, from our heart that words come and spill through our lips and into the world.

I like to think that I do a pretty decent job of taking Jesus at his word. Like all of us, I’m not always the best I could be at living it, but I claim spiritual progress rather than perfection, and at my core I have a real desire for that clean heart and right spirit.

Today I am reminded of something else that Jesus said about words – this time when referring to how we pray. He warned against heaping a bunch of empty words in order to draw attention to ourselves, but instead to go into the inner room – meaning our heart – to pray, and there God will see and hear us. Once again connecting our words to the purity of heart.

I think we are prone to trouble when we lose sight of the important connection between our heart and our words. Words should never be cheap. When our words are only reactionary they become aimless, yet have the potential for great harm because they don’t come from that wellspring of goodness, of purity of heart. Words from a polluted source can start wars. Words from a pure source can end wars. Words from a deceitful heart can harm us. Words from a truthful heart can heal us.

I am reading a book that feels important right now called The Book of Joy which documents a week-long conversation between Archbishop Desmond Tutu and The Dalai Lama on the occasion of the Dalai Lama’s eightieth birthday. In it the Dalai Lama says this:

“I believe everyone has the responsibility to develop a happier world. We need, ultimately, to have a greater concern for others well-being. In other words, kindness or compassion, which is lacking now. We must pay more attention to our inner values. We must look inside.”

These are words that originate from a clear wellspring – a source of goodness and purity of heart. These are words of wisdom that encourage us and inspire us to be the best God intends for us. These are words from the heart.

Holy God of all people, I pray that you will create within all of us a clean and truthful heart that can produce words for one another that will renew a right spirit in our world so that we can help bring about your Kingdom right here on earth – one inspiring and loving and healing word at a time. Amen.

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