The Power of Words

“Words which do no give the light of Christ
increase the darkness.”

-Mother Theresa

Recently, I wrote a post about how language is insufficient. Anyone who studies English, has read a powerful piece of writing, or just has some sort of existence in this world would have read that post with utter disagreement. Anyone who has ever experienced life would know that words are not meaningless; words make an impact on people’s lives. Words effect you. I did receive some responses that pointed out that I could be wrong, that I had misrepresented the idea of language. Dictionary.com defines ‘language’ as “communication by voice in the distinctively human manner, using arbitrary sounds in conventional ways with conventional meanings; speech.” Words are defined as the “principal carriers of meaning.” Words are not useless – far from it!

Language is surely an insufficient means for me to communicate myself as a subject to others as objects. I can never completely fulfill that. No great work of literature has ever completely communicated everything that the subject is thinking. No great speech has been able to spell out every thought of that subject. But one cannot say that literature and speeches are pointless, or useless. Works of literature and speeches both often succeed in moving a person to action or to emotion. Despite the lack of the ability to fully communicate oneself to others, words give us the power to bring others to the realm of our thoughts. Individually, while some words can bring about thoughts or emotions, most words are just words. [Obviously THE Word, Jesus Christ Himself, is different, but I’m not referring to Him.] When an author or a speaker craft together certain words in a certain order with certain emotions, they can stir up those similar emotions and those similar thoughts within us.

Anyone who has ever seen The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King would understand the true power contained in words used with great tact and eloquence. The armies of men (plus some hobbits, dwarves, and elves) were vastly outnumbered by the armies of Sauron. Sauron’s armies had much greater strength as well. The armies of men had every right and reason to tremble in fear and desire to flee. Enter Aragorn, son of Arathorn, heir of Isildur and rightful heir to the throne of Gondor. He comes up with words to speak to this rag-tag army that has arrived at the Black Gate with the hopes to defeat the Dark Lord of Mordor, the evil that has been taking over Middle-Earth. He managed to craft together a speech that stirred up the courage of those men to bring them to the battle. For those who have seen it, you know how it ends. For those who have not seen it, 1) how DARE you! GO SEE IT! 2) I will not spoil it for you.

Word_memeWords are not lifeless and meaningless. They have power. Most people have heard the cliché “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Words unite, and words divide; words create, and words destroy; words bring joy, and words bring tears. No one can rightly deny the power that lies within a word. Language is a terrible way to communicate oneself completely to another. But words allow a person to come to understand just a little bit of what one is trying to communicate. Words create thoughts in a person’s mind, bringing about some sort of change, such as the ones just listed above. Words are living, breathing symbols. Now, I’m obviously being metaphorical there, but you know what I mean. Words are not dead. If they were dead, Aragorn would have failed to bring courage to those men; my blog, while it may be read, would lack the intended thought-provoking element; and all that Jesus said would have been for nothing. Words can make nations fall and armies rise.

However, words are moot if the recipient of the communication of these words allows them to go in one ear and out the other. The change is up to the beholder. If I were amongst the army of Aragorn at the Black Gate, and all that I did was dwell on what I saw and not care about what Aragorn had to say, there would have been nothing keeping me from turning around and running the other way. I would have to internalize his speech, his words in order for there to be true change, allowing for his words to accomplish their task. One cannot just absorb the most eloquent of speeches and not do anything about it. Words are meant to move a person to action in some way, whether that be mental or physical action. The only way that that can happen is if the person allows for that to happen. All authors, speakers, or human beings in general have a job when it comes to their use of words: use the words that will bring about the action they want. That’s it. From there, the recipient of those words must be left to choose to act in one way or another. While that may sound very utilitarian, that can include just building up relationships. One can use words to build up relationships or to try to communicate some point. Whatever the intention may be, the recipient is responsible for taking in those words and acting.

“A word is dead when it’s been said, some say.
I say it just begins to live that day.”

-Emily Dickinson

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Duc In Altum

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: That F***ing Blog Post on F***ing Vulgarity | EarendilStar

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