People on average spend approximately 70 to 80 percent of their waking hours in some form of communication. Of that, about 9 percent of their time is spent writing, 16 percent reading, 30 percent speaking, and 45 percent listening. Most of our lives are spent communicating, either influencing others with words, or being influenced by words.
Knowing the tremendous impact of words, Jesus said a lot about this important subject. In a conversation with the Pharisees He revealed a massively important principle about communication when He said, “By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:37).
This text can be understood to mean that what we say reveals what we think and who we are. In a litigious context it means that people can be held responsible for falsification and slander. In a spiritual context, we are put on notice that on the day of judgment people will be held eternally accountable for their words.
Our words must be managed, rather than allowing them to manage us!
So do words really affect thoughts, actions, habits, character, and destiny? Yes, yes, yes. It happens all the time. When we say and hear negative things, we often become negative; when we say and hear positive comments, we frequently become positive. Words influence us. Thus the value of putting ourselves in places, or around virtuous people, where the influence is uplifting and encouraging.
Our words matter. They have great power to guide others, and they are noted by the unseen world. Words influence our lives powerfully, are intoxicating, and are profoundly determinative.
The crucial nature of words may be extrapolated from Ellen White’s comments on Christ’s teaching on speech. We see four powerful principles:
1. Words reveal thoughts: “The words are an indication of that which is in the heart. ‘Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.’”
2. Words influence those who speak them: “But the words are more than an indication of character; they have power to react on the character. Men are influenced by their own words.”
3. Words can entrap: “Often under a momentary impulse, prompted by Satan, they give utterance to jealousy or evil surmising, expressing that which they do not really believe; but the expression reacts on the thoughts. They are deceived by their words, and come to believe that true which was spoken at Satan’s instigation.
4. Words influence destiny: “The habit of careless and irreverent criticism reacts upon the character, in fostering irreverence and unbelief. Many a man indulging this habit has gone on unconscious of danger, until he was ready to criticize and reject the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, ‘Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment’” (The Desire of Ages, p. 323).
Being reminded of the above, we should respond immediately, aggressively. Our words must be managed, rather than allowing them to manage us! We should do a serious word inventory. Study the Bible and uplifting literature for maintaining good speech. Pray about the tongue and will it under control. Then let’s fearlessly evaluate our progress and make ourselves accountable to a trusted confidant.
Words are powerful. But linked with a plan and divine power, we are more powerful. We can win the war with words.