Posted by: everynation | June 26, 2008

The Power of Words

by Frank Christie

Words are powerful! In fact the Bible tells us that our faith is built up by hearing the Word of God!

Words can bring life, they can destroy, they can also cause confusion and be misleading.

I remember, as a child, burning my hands on the stove and my mother putting butter on it to stop the burning. However, little did she know that it actually served to fuel the cooking of my hand! Why did she use butter? Because that’s what her mother used, and my grandmother’s mother before that, and so on. It’s easy to fall into the myth or old wives’ tale trap: A friend passes along a tip, and then you pass it on to several individuals you know. One day you hear the same tip repeated, so you figure it must be true. Today, we know that if you burn your hand on a hot stove you should hold it under cold running water to stop the burning. Myths carry on over time until we learn that that’s all they are – Myths!

Myth is derived from the Greek word mythos, which means “word of mouth.”

An old wives’ tale or old wives’ saws is a proverb, much like an urban legend which is generally passed down by old wives to a younger generation. Such ‘tales’ usually consist of superstition, folklore or unverified claims with exaggerated and/or untrue details.

Most old wives’ tales are false and are used to discourage unwanted behavior, usually in children. Among the few tales with grains of truth, the veracity is likely coincidental. I can remember a couple of them shared with me when I was a kid. I was told that “if you smoke when you are young it would stunt your growth”. So I should be way taller than I am now right? Here is another one: “if you swallow your gum your stomach will stick to your back” of “if the wind changes direction while you are pulling that ugly face then your face will stay like that”. Well that explains what happened to my face then!

I am having fun thinking of these so here are a few more that you might relate to:

Eating carrots improves your night vision – This tale started in WWII when the British spread a rumour that their plane spotters were eating carrots to give them improved vision, concealing the truth about the invention of radar.

Staying out in the cold without a coat causes pneumonia – bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae (as well as certain viruses), is the cause, not cold weather.

Handling a baby bird will cause it to be rejected by its parents – Most birds have such a limited sense of smell, they can’t detect the scent of a human.
Words are powerful things and we should think about how we use them. They can build someone up or tear them down!
Poorly chosen words can kill enthusiasm, impact self-esteem, lower expectations and hold people back. Well chosen ones can motivate, offer hope, create vision, impact thinking and alter results. I learned in 16 years in ministry that my words have power over my actions. They also impact and influence people I speak them to.

Power is generated by using the words in such a way that they trigger emotional responses in the person who hears or reads them. These are enormous powers, largely because they are invisible. Others can thus be persuaded, manipulated and controlled without their knowledge.

The atmosphere for a great marriage is usually determined by words. A child thrives in an environment of affirming words and love.

Our words can refresh and encourage someone who is discouraged and ready to give up and quit. Words can give new life to a dead relationship.

We must use our words wisely, to build up and not tear down. Words are powerful!

Proverbs 18:21

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Frank Christie is the senior pastor of Every Nation Somerset West, the founder of Thembalitsha and the author of Being Frank.


  1. Frank, Thank you for this article. It was timely for me; simply, because I have been dealing with a tongue that needs healing. Just yesterday I planned to commit James 3 to heart. now I can add Proverbs 18:21 also. I really lol while reading the myths and old wives’ tales. I too can remember, the butter thing for sure. Again, thank you for this article regarding our words.


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