Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Did you ever hear this saying when you were young? I recall children saying this when I was in elementary school. I’m pretty sure our teachers taught this saying in order to help us not take seriously the harsh words other kids would speak. No matter how many times I may have recited such a saying, it never seemed to take away the sting and power of someone else’s words.
How is it that some words carry greater power than others? Why is it that one person can say something and the words spoken carry great power to impact you, whereas someone else can say something, and their words float in one ear and out the other? How do we go about attributing power to some words and not others?
The power of the words you abide in can be directly linked to the amount of value given to the source of the words. For example, I played sports growing up, and after every game each team would shake hands and say “good game.” When players from the other team told me “good game” I did not take those words seriously. They simply floated in one ear and out the other. I did not value the source of the words from the other players. What the other team thought about my team’s performance was irrelevant to me. However, once we returned to the sideline, our coach would have some words for us regarding our performance. What the coach thought had greater meaning to me because I attached a greater value to what he thought. His words had the power to either build me up or tear me down.
Family members words tend to hold even greater power. A parent’s words spoken toward a child have tremendous power to influence that child for years because of the intimate nature of the parent/child relationship. Children attach great value to their parent’s attitude, perception, and thoughts about them. The greater the amount of influence and value a person has in our lives the greater the power of their words.
The things we look to as having the greatest value in our lives tend to be what we find our worth in. For instance, if I find my worth in being a successful businessman then I will assign great value to those who can speak of my success. Such individuals will be given the power to greatly influence me. Or, say you find your worth in being a good parent. You’ll likely look to find your value in your children and what others say about you as a parent. Maybe you find your value and worth in how good a Christian you are. If anyone were to speak against how good a Christian you are then those very words may crush your spirit. The power words have over us is determined by the value and worth we find in relation to the source of the words. We can identify the words that carry the most weight and power in our hearts and minds by reflecting on what we think about most throughout the day.
An illustration from Scripture may be of some help (I italicized the parts of the Scripture I’d like to highlight). Psalm 1 states:
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.”
In this case, the law of the Lord is his word (i.e., Scripture). The law and God’s word is one and the same, they are one. Notice how the psalmist makes the connection between what one delights in and what one meditates on. “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” We don’t use the language of delighting and meditating in our day to day lives but Scripture would say what we think about throughout the day is what we are meditating and delighting in. Let us first look at the concept of delighting in words, and then shift to meditating on words. In doing so we will seek to uncover the power certain words have in our lives. The Psalmist uses an illustration of people being like a tree and the stream being God’s word. The roots of the tree are impacted by God’s word, which is seen by the strength of the tree weathering different seasons of life. The question we’re to wrestle with is where are our roots seeking nourishment (i.e., our value and worth)?
What do you delight in? What brings you joy? What makes you happy? Your answers to these questions may very well reveal what you delight in. Delighting in something is not inherently bad, however, if what we delight in influences our value and worth, then it begins to exert great power over us. An illustration may be of help. Many of us delight in posting pictures on social media. The more “likes” we get the more joy and happiness can often times follow. To some degree we are finding our value and worth through social media. The more “likes” on a picture can invoke a greater sense of pride and joy. In order to truly discern the power social media can have reflect on your experience when you receive no likes or critical or negative comments are posted. What if a person were to comment on a picture being bad? What if people were to be critical of your posts? What if you receive no likes? For some, this can lead to feeling exposed, vulnerable, devalued and worthless. The things we delight in will bring us joy and happiness. They also have the power to knock us down, resulting in feelings of worthlessness, despair, and anxiousness. The Psalmist reveals that to truly know the power of what we delight in we must look to what we meditate upon day and night -- i.e., what occupies our thoughts throughout the day.
Before proceeding, let us take a look at the word meditate. Psalm 1 states, “on his law he meditates day and night.” Strong’s Dictionary defines meditation as “ to murmur; to ponder, imagine, speak, study, talk, utter.” It is easy to read this Scripture and assume to meditate on his law day and night means to read God’s word day and night. However, by definition meditation is a process of taking words and pondering them, thinking them over, studying, and imagining the implications of those words. Whether you realize it or not, you meditate on words day and night. The source of your meditation may very well be what you find your delight in. This is due to how much time you spend thinking, pondering, and imagining about what you delight in. Whatever you think about most is going to directly correlate to where you find your value and worth in life.
We all delight in something. The source of our delight is likely something that will consume our mind throughout our day — e.g., doing better, being more successful, being liked, etc. We likely attach our worth to the very thing we delight in and think about day and night. We learn to delight in these words because they hold power to speak to our value and worth. The words we delight in can fill us with much joy, happiness, and hope; however, words that attack and challenge our value and worth have the power to shake our very foundation. They can bring us to a place of despair. Such words carry great power to either build us up or tear us down.
As you explore whose words you have abided in, you may discover that you have abided in the words of a parent or caregiver, a relative, a teacher, or peers. As a child, you may have found your value and worth in what these people said about you. Their words had the power to either build you up or tear you down. When their words built you up, you likely found yourself delighting in their words, desiring to hear such words spoken over you, time and time again. Sadly, the very source of your worth and value had the power to destroy you. To be seen as not valuable or worthless can invoke powerful feelings of fear, insecurity, sadness, anxiety, and despair. The source of the words we abide in hold a powerful place in our lives. God desperately desires his words to be the sole source of power in our lives. He desires to take the place as the Source of the words you find your value and worth in.
A prayer for you: Abba Father, you know the power of the words we abide in. You know how they have shaped our life and impacted our relationship with you. Such powerfully rooted words can bring about discouragement, hopelessness, and despair. However, you also know the great power your words have. Your words are capable of uprooting other words we may find ourselves abiding in, which do not reflect your truth. Teach my brothers and sisters to turn to you, and plead with you to root their delight in your word. Teach them to meditate upon your word day and night. May they experience the great power that comes with delighting in your word and pondering and thinking about your word day and night. I ask that your words reveal their mighty power to those who feel distant from you. We ask of this in your Son, Jesus’ name. Amen.
1) Invite God to guide you during a time of self-exploration. Ask him where you find your value and worth in life? Ask God to help you identify what you delight in day and night? Whatever God reveals to you, ask him to fill you with finding your value and worth in him. Plead with God to teach you how to find your delight in his word. This is not a one time exercise, but an ongoing prayer and plea before the Lord. God created you for a specific purpose, which is to glorify him with your life. This is where you will find your true value, meaning, and worth. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-11).
2) Tim Keller has an excellent resource for digging deeper into Psalm 1 and better understanding the importance of meditating upon God’s Word. Click here for the link to Keller’s resource. Page 12 is a detailed explanation of Psalm 1 verse by verse. Page 161 provides questions for reflection.
Dr. Ruel Tyer is the Director of Care and Counseling for OneDay Counseling at Portico church. To learn more about OneDay Counseling visit the website - www.onedaycville.org. Dr. Tyer provides counseling services for individuals, couples, and families. If you are interested in learning more about counseling services please contact Dr. Tyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.