power of words

Words are powerful tools of creation. One of the meanings of the Hebrew word “dvr” or “davra” is “the spoken word”.

We find the word “davra” used in the Old Testament, in the first chapter of Genesis. “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light…” The word “said” in that verse is the Hebrew word “davra”. Its use here shows the power of creating through the word. The Divine spoke and our world was created. I do not believe this passage is intended to be interpreted literally, but it and the remainder of this early part of the book of Genesis offer us an important principle in the power of our words. We are created in the image of the Divine. Is it a stretch to consider that our words have the same creative power as the Creator? It is my belief that part of the intention of this passage is to offer us insight into the power of our words to create or destroy. We can build people up by using affirming, loving, appreciating words or we can tear them down with our criticism, gossip, and spitefulness.

Recently IKEA, a furniture manufacturer, sponsored an experiment to highlight the power of words. The experiment was conducted at a middle school. IKEA donated two plants, each of which was placed in a separate glass enclosure. In one enclosure, the plant was exposed to recordings of kind words and phrases. The phrases included things like, “you’re beautiful” and “it is good to see you”. In the other enclosure, the plant was exposed to recordings of unkind words and phrases. These phrases included things like, “you’re a loser” and “no one cares if you are around or not”. After 30 days, the video compares the state of each of the plants. The difference between the two plants was striking. The plant exposed to kind words was vibrant and thriving. The plant exposed to harsh words was limp and yellow. It looked like it was dying. This experiment offered a powerful visual representation of the impact words can have on living things.

Now let’s consider for a moment the words you use towards yourself. We all have an “inner critic”. The inner critic is the part of us that offers commentary when we have a setback, make a mistake, or are embarrassed. Your inner critic might say things like, “You are such an idiot!” or “You always screw things up!” Harsh words can chip away at your self-confidence- whether the words come from another person or inside of your head. One of the things I encourage my clients to do is to become aware of how they use their words to “create” the world they live in. I encourage them to notice when their inner critic is getting to be especially noisy. On such occasions, I advise them to treat themselves with kindness- much like they would treat their child or their best friend. It can take some practice, but over time you can learn to quiet your inner critic rather quickly. You can become vibrant and thrive just like the plant that received kind words if you are willing to change how you speak to yourself. Offering yourself encouragement may seem odd, but you can “train” your brain to think in new ways. Practicing correcting inner criticism can lead to you gaining confidence and feeling better about yourself.