The Power of Words

By Guest Blogger Emily Page

Social media has become a powerful and pervasive part of our daily news. One particular medium allows people to send 140 character messages to millions of people in an instant, with little time taken to edit or consider the weight that words can carry. The messages on this medium has fueled revolutions, raised money for charity, moved stock markets, rallied people to a cause, and now leads headlines every day.

Our country has a history with short but powerful documents. Some of our country’s most important documents are brief – even pocket sized. The Constitution of the United States, including the 27 amendments is 7,591 words long. The Declaration of Independence is 1,458 words long. The Gettysburg Address is a mere 272 words long. There is power in brevity:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…”

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union…”

“…A new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

These documents were written in deeply divided times – on the eve of a revolution, at the birth of a nation, in the midst of a civil war. We criticize them now for the hypocrisy of a slave owner referring to the equality of all men. We question the wisdom of how the authors balanced state and federal powers. Even now we consider them revolutionary. One news organization posted the Declaration of Independence this past July 4th, and it was criticized for trying to incite a revolution and spread propaganda.

History has demonstrated that words are powerful. Words shared with millions of people in the blink of an eye or at an impulsive moment can carry even more weight. They can be frustrating, disarming, and even alarming. But we have the ability to handle our response to these words. Do we understand the context? Do our responses add to the discourse in a positive manner? Or are we seeking to get a cheap laugh or “win” the next round?

Perhaps instead of criticizing, we should look to see how we can make ourselves, our neighborhood, our city, and our country “more perfect,” as our founders once did. We can “be dedicated here to the unfinished work” of those who came before us. We should hold our leaders to a high standard, but let us look to watch how we speak to each other, to our neighbors, and to our children. Are we speaking kindness and then acting with kindness in turn? Do we value the right for free speech but also teach our children the power of that right?

In 37 words, Jesus provided the guidance that we need to live each day: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

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