Words can be cheap, for sure. But words spoken from the heart can also be unbelievably powerful, either to destroy relationships or to build them back up.
Remember this little ditty from your childhood?
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
Our parents and teachers told us this when we were feeling hurt by a verbal assault from some small-brained, uncaring bully. I suppose the thinking was that all of us are way too strong to let “mere words” hurt us. The problem with that, of course, is that it is just not true. All of us…ALL OF US…feel the sting of harsh words spoken by someone who matters to us. It is the way we are wired. And it bears witness to the power of words, both to build up and to destroy.
This reality is never truer than in the area of reconciliation. When relationships are broken and healing is needed, the way back will always require conversation, which means words. We can try healing broken relationships with plenty of other things, including acts of service and hugs and quality time spent together…and all of those are good…but, ultimately, there will need to be more than these things.
There is a story in the Bible about a people whom God loved but who broke their relationship with him through their own unfaithfulness. One of their prophets showed them the way back to God with this encouragement: “Take words with you and return to the Lord.” Hosea 14:2. God wired us in such a way that any genuine reconciliation of relationships will necessarily require us to first ponder what we need to say to mend the relationship, and then to say it.
My pastor, Don Guthrie, beat me to the punch on this point regarding this same passage earlier this week here. Here is how he said it:
“Take words with you”, says the prophet. Consider and prepare what you will say. No easy or irresponsible “sorry” will be accepted. Own what you have done. If you don’t know what to say, you are not ready. The way back is paved with words.
If I could say it better than that I would. But I cannot. His words say it perfectly. That, you see, is the power of words.