The Power of a Single Word

Words have power. Everyone can agree to this, as in life we have all either been encouraged or harmed by words. Or we have been the ones encouraging or harming others – intentionally or not.

No matter how much we learn this, though, it seems that we continually let things slip out of our mouths without restraint. We think and believe things – right or wrong – and eventually, those beliefs or attitudes squirm their way out into the open.

A month ago I was able to participate in Jury Duty for the first time. Now, I know most people dread this, but I was honestly looking forward to it. I wanted to do my “civic duty.” This little system we have here in America is part of what makes our country great. [I have to be honest, I’m not sure what the processes are for justice in other countries – maybe it’s very similar and if so – I think that those countries are just as great! I digress…]

Serving on a jury was a wonderful experience – go ahead, call me a nerd (I’ll take it as a compliment!). One of the things that struck me the entire length of my service (9 days! I was put on a 9-day trial!), was the power of words. Not just the words you speak, but your tone and body language that accompanies them.

There was a moment early in the trial when this thought first occurred. I’ve wanted to write this post since then, but needed to wait until the trial’s conclusion. One of the witnesses in the trial used a term “political” in a conversation with the plaintiff, and this conversation was one of the catalysts to the plaintiff actually looking into filing a lawsuit.

The witness seemed like such a good man. Whether or not he meant anything by saying “political” in a conversation, he said it and now he was sitting, under oath, with 13 jurors, a judge, lawyers, and a few random observers staring him down. Weighing every word, every facial expression, every hesitation.

This made me consider my words more. What if, in a random conversation I made an off-the-cuff remark – and it wound up causing me to be on a witness stand? Or worse?

The reminder of how powerful words are was a welcome one. I’m sure that over the last month I’ve forgotten many times and said things I didn’t mean or maybe did mean – but shouldn’t have said. I hope that reminders like this happen more often. And that eventually my words will be nothing but intentional and edifying to those around me.