What’s In A Word?

You remember “Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?”

Well, words may not hurt your feelings, but if you ask Don Imus, words can hurt your career and cost you a job.

If you ask Jesse Jackson, words can hurt your name and cost you the respect of your constituents.

Or if you ask Ludacris, words can hurt your pending endorsement deal and, as of late, friendship with the 2008 presumptive Democratic nominee.

If you ask the family of Megan Meir, words will do more than hurt feelings but they can lead a teenage girl to commit suicide and cost her family immeasurable pain, not to mention the case brought against Lori Drew, whose words it is claimed led to the teen’s suicide based on a bogus MYSPACE entry.

And we all have been recently involved in discussion and dialogue over whether or not Jeremiah Wright was right in what he said!

On the flip side, if you ask a Dr. Martin Luther King , words can lead a nation into a movement that is still impacting the world “I have a dream…”

Recently, I taught a class on the Power of the Tongue. We looked at several case studies and scriptures that pointed us to the fact that one of the smallest muscles in our body has the ability to do so much damage, yet the same muscle can do so much good. Our words can cause irreparable damage to the mind and soul of a person or build internal confidence and strength in that same person. Our words can start street fights and wars or bring peace to chaos. This is a lot of power!

In this age of YouTube, Myspace, Tagged, Camera Phones, miniature digital recording devices, palm pilots, text messaging, instant messaging and so much more, our words have greater reach, thereby increasing their power. In less than 3 minutes, our words can be sent across the globe and affect people we will never meet in person.

Admittedly, I’ve said many things I regret and have had to return to the person(s) with whom I spoke to seek their forgiveness. Likewise I’ve said many things that encourage people to go on and do great things in life. One of the reasons I write and speak publicly is in hopes that my words will be a positive influence and do some good in this life.

UTC reader, with all this power, what are you doing with your words?

Building or destroying? Strengthening or weakening? Affecting or infecting? Killing or creating? Something or nothing? What are you doing with your words?

Doctor, Lawyer, Coach, Teacher, Preacher, Writer, Singer, Rapper, News reporter, Poet Mom, Dad, Friend, Confidant, Politician, DJ, and the list can go on, what are we doing with your words?

The creator has given us great power with the tongue and our words; and we have responsibility over them. I can’t tell you how, when or where to use this power, I am only responsible for what I say; but it is my desire to be a master of my words. And today my thoughts are on His words: “Set a guard over my mouth and watch over my lips.” Psalm 141:3

Najuma Smith is a preacher, world traveler, writer, and proud parent. She currently serves as the full-time Sr. Pastor of St. James AME Church in Los Angeles. Unapologetically saved and full of purpose, she enjoys sharing words of encouragement with anyone who will listen, bringing a fresh look at life in light of the Word of God. Her collection of motivations and observations are exclusive to Urban Thought Collective. Visit her at

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