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In my Twitter feed, someone asked the question “Can words cause anger?” To me it was a duh-question. Who doesn’t know words can cause anger, especially when they’re spoken in anger? I tweeted back that words have the power to cause anger, hurt, and confusion, but they also have the power to soothe, comfort, and encourage. Our words could make or break a person. We need to think about how we use this power so we can use it in a good and meaningful way.

This exchange reminded me of a quote from Oprah I saw earlier last week. She said true forgiveness comes when you can say thank you for that experience. While I don’t believe that’s true for every hurtful experience, it may apply to when someone hurts you deeply with their words.

A number of times in my life, someone hurt me deeply, to my very core, with their words. They caused me a lot of pain, heartache, tears, and distress by something they said. Most of the time, assumptions were made about me that weren’t true. It’s especially hurtful when you’re accused with a lie. The hurt stayed with me for many years and festered into anger. My anger brought up feelings of I’ll-show-them. It gave me the determination to prove the speakers wrong.

With the motivation of hurtful words, I became a better person or achieved something they said I couldn’t do. I became stronger and surer of myself. I became who I am now. But I carried the sting of their words along with me.

When I read Oprah’s words, I had an epiphany. I hadn’t truly forgiven the speakers of the harmful words. I could honestly thank them for helping me become a better person. Without that prodding (even though it felt like a cattle prod at the time), I wouldn’t be who I am and where I am today without them. I felt a weight lift off me as I mentally thanked them for the experience and shed the weight of hurtful words I’d carried around too long.

All that is not to say you should go around saying hateful things so people will become better. Believe me, it doesn’t always work that way. Hateful, hurtful words are just that and usually cause more damage than good. So, choose your words carefully. Your words have power as soon as they leave your mouth. Think before you speak and give them the right kind of power. Send them out to do good, not harm.

Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. James 3: 10

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