Limiting Language

I’ve written before about the power of words. In short, I spend a lot of my time and make my living reading, writing, and otherwise working with words. I’m astonished at the power of the spoken and written word to instruct, inspire, empower, and less desirably to undermine, manipulate, and deflate the human spirit. Today, I want to offer some thoughts on the words we use when we talk to ourselves.

The Bible – and the book of Proverbs in particular – mentions the power of speech a LOT. A sampling:

  • Proverbs 12:19 says “Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment.”
  • Proverbs 15:4 calls a “gentle tongue… a tree of life” and says “perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”
  • Proverbs 21:23 says that “whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”
  • The author of the book of James compares “the tongue” (you could substitute “speech”) to a fire with the power set a great forest ablaze, a spring that pours forth either fresh or salt water (but never both), and a tree whose nature can be determined by the fruit it bears. (James 3:5-12)

Evidenced by these and other verses, it’s clear that God intends his children to use the gift of communication wisely and with care. “With great power comes great responsibility”, as the great folk hero Spider-Man taught us. That admonishment applies to more than just the words we use when talking to others, though. It applies in the realm of self-talk, too.

Have you ever said (or thought) something along these lines: “I’ll never be the kind of person who can speak in public.” Or: “As much as I want to, I just can’t forgive them for what they did.” Or: “I’ll never get over what happened to me when I was a kid.” How often do you use the words can’t, won’t, don’t, never, always, or have to when talking to or about yourself? When you do, you’re selling God short and limiting what He can – and probably wants to – do in your life.

If you believe God made the entire universe, breathed life into man, and loves his children, you should also be able to accept that he can help you – his own creation – break a bad habit, change your mind, or empower you to learn something new (or unlearn something old).

Over the next few days, pay attention when you talk about yourself, noting instances of limiting language – words like can’t, have to, never, and always. When you use them, either aloud or in your head, take a minute to consider that, “with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” (Henry Ford)

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