Your words are so weighty that they have the power to bring life or release death… Proverbs 18:21 (TPT)
Susannah Heschel said of her Father, the great Rabbi Abraham Heschel:
“Words, he often wrote, are themselves sacred, God’s tool for creating the universe, and our tools for bringing holiness — or evil — into the world. He used to remind us that the Holocaust did not begin with the building of crematoria, and Hitler did not come to power with tanks and guns; it all began with uttering evil words, with defamation, with language and propaganda. Words create worlds he used to tell me when I was a child. They must be used very carefully. Some words, once having been uttered, gain eternity and can never be withdrawn.” (1).
We spend words so easily, often thoughtlessly, without wondering how’ll they’ll ripple out after they drop into the hearts and minds of those who hear them. Words are funny little creatures. We can see them on paper, we can’t physically hold them in our hands, but we can keep them in our hearts.
A single word might bring color and light to me, but darkness and despair to my neighbor. They have the power to ignite life or inspire hate, and everything in between. The economy of words is such that we don’t pay for them until after we use them. And because of this, many of us don’t weigh the price before we spend.
“Your words are so weighty that they have the power to bring life or release death…” (Prov 18:21 TPT).
We’ve all fallen victim to words, some more than others. And before we go on and get into this series, I want to apologize to every person who has ever been marginalized, misunderstood, stereotyped, pushed to the edges, by the words of those who don’t understand what they’re saying, and those who do. How I wish all those divisive, degrading words could be erased.
Words create worlds. So, listen to what’s being said. Listen to what you’re saying.
And after that, we have work to do: what do we do with the words? The ones that hurt, that cut us down to size, which diminish our personhood, that strip us of dignity, that sow seeds of hatred and greed and scarcity?
Because words can be just that: seeds that sink deep into the soil of our lives with the potential to grow. How do we know which seeds are good and which ones are bad? Is it that dualistic? How do we know which ones to uproot and which ones to nurture? How do we pull them our after they’ve grown and taken over our whole heart?
What do we do with the words stuck inside us? Because some of them need to be rejected and thrown out.
Everything changed for me when I decided to see myself and the world from a place of original goodness; love. I come from love, I was made with love, and love is tied up into every fibre and atom holding my seen and unseen form together.
You are loved.
Hear me say it again: You are loved. No matter what other words have been spoken over you, to you, even by you, you come from love and goodness. The deepest part of yourself is not dark and evil and something to fear; if you look, you’ll find love.
Written by Lizzy Milani
1. Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays. By Abraham Joshua Heschel. Published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.