Last night, I shed a few tears while watching one of my favorite TV shows.
A runaway father had returned to his family. His leaving had torn his wife and three children in shreds. Now, he had come home because he was sick and thought he was going to die. Yet, he was still the same old dad, and at the dinner table, he began to berate and ridicule his adult children. In his eyes, nothing his children had done was good enough or smart enough or right enough and now he called them names like "quitter" and "lazy. Just before the father was asked to leave, one of his children said to him, "Pop. Those things you say. They can't ever be taken back. Not once you say them." That's when the tears came.
Today, a friend told me about a time she had witnessed a mother yelling at her young child in the grocery store. She told her child, "You are such an idiot." All the way through the checkout and on into the parking lot, the mother continued to heap verbal abuse on her child. My friend took all she could and finally confronted the mother. "Listen to what you are saying to your child. Even if he did something wrong, he doesn't deserve to be called names by his own mother." It turned into an ugly confrontation with the mother threatening to tell her husband about what my friend was saying to her. My friend just smiled and said, "Good. Call your husband. Let him hear how hateful you are sounding. And keep on yelling at me, because as long as you are yelling at me, you're leaving your poor child alone."
Tonight, driving home from work, I was thinking about these two incidents, one fiction, one real, that both bore out the same truth: words have power. Then, as if it was a message straight from God's heart to mine, I heard the words of a song by Hawk Nelson about words. About how words can build up or tear down. About how words can start a fire or put it out.