By Rabbi Mordechai Levin
Published by the Omaha World Herald – October 29, 2011
Sometimes we throw words around without considering the effect they may have on others. But once words are spoken, it is impossible to take them back. Who hasn’t been affected by the power of words? How many families have they divided? How many friendships have they fractured? How many marriages have they soured? We must always be aware of, and use great care in, choosing our words.
Words have the ability to heal sorrow; they also have the power to open wounds. They can lift us up or push us down. They may strengthen our confidence or deprive us of our self-esteem. Used in a complimentary fashion, they create favorable perceptions of others; used unkindly, they can do damage to reputations.
Sometimes we use rationalizations, choosing different words to describe our behavior as opposed to the similar behavior of others. For instance, if a person doesn’t complete a task, we may call her lazy. But when we don’t finish the same task, we say we were too busy. If someone takes a long time to do something, we may criticize him and call him slow. But if we take a long time to do something, we say we are meticulous. If another person holds an unwavering point of view, we may say he is stubborn. But when we take a strong stance, we call ourselves firm.
Words are precious and powerful. As it is written in the Hebrew Bible (Proverbs 18:21), “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”” Let us use our words carefully and lovingly.