The Power of Words

By Bhante Wimala

Our ability to speak is a great blessing, as it makes it possible for us to communicate. Just like our thoughts, our words have energy; they have the ability to soothe or hurt another person. Our words can make people feel happy or unhappy. Words can reveal the truth or disguise it. A blessing is a word spoken with good intention, while a curse is a word spoken with bad intention. When words are spoken with heart-felt, pure intention, we are practicing a spiritual virtue, the virtue of harmonious speech.

When we hear or read the words of great masters and true spiritual teachers, they not only broaden our life perspective, they also bring us comfort. Some of these words have inspired millions of people throughout history. Those who are spiritually rich utter no empty words. For them, words are a tool to express and share the riches of their hearts.

We have all had the experience of receiving a hateful or a loving word. Words can separate nations and lead them into war, or they can bring them together and create peace. In large or small ways, words that are spoken and heard by ordinary people like you and I affect our lives and those around us. A mother’s love expressed in a song can put a child to sleep. An angry husband’s words can hurt his wife more than a sharp knife. Schools of business and management teach how to communicate with the appropriate words to increase employee motivation and productivity. By choosing the appropriate words that arise from good intentions, we can avoid causing other people pain.
The awareness that the words we speak have consequences can encourage us to do our best not to cause disturbance or burden to anybody. This realization can be a great motivator on our spiritual path. When people are angry or selfish and speak harsh words to us, we have to make a choice. That is when our motivation is challenged the most. Are we going to get drawn into their weakness and behave as they do, or choose to act from a place of peace and strength? To act from a place of peace and strength is to choose not to match bad words with bad words: to stop creating a cycle of abusive verbal dialogue. Ask yourself if you have to get lost in anger and insult to get your point across.

We are all struggling with so many issues on a daily basis. When people get trapped in negative emotions they can become verbally abusive and unpleasant. You can easily answer back in the same tone, choosing to punish them with worse words. But the more difficult choice you could make is to respond with the opposite, words that will carry the energy of your heart. We come across too many people in our daily lives who need a little healing or a moment to breathe. Your words could be a gift to them that offers a moment of peace, healing and acceptance. As you walk away from them, your patient words and tolerance may leave them with a gentle reminder that they need to pay more attention to their own words.

To support this process, do your best to avoid absorbing words that create disharmony, violence, and aggression in your environment. Movies, books, radio and television all play their part in spreading violent speech and actions.
Prolonged exposure will inevitably have an effect on your consciousness. So again, it is our responsibility when we have the choice, to choose to hear words that will nurture and enrich, rather than disturb and slow down our quest for harmonious speech.