Words are powerful.
Words create reality.
Words have the ability to harm or to heal.
Whoever made up the children’s nursery rhyme about sticks and stones was mistaken. People of any age who hear that they are ugly or stupid or useless can carry emotional wounds that often take longer to mend than a broken bone. But a positive word brings encouragement. Scientific studies have shown that even houseplants thrive more when nice things are said about them!
This shouldn’t surprise us. Proverbs tells us that life and death are in the power of the tongue.
Whilst this refers to the spoken word, I believe the written word can have just as much of an impact.
The written word is powerful and can’t be altered or denied. It carries explosive ideas between cultures. It expresses the deepest yearnings in our hearts, explains what it means to be human. Some words are deemed too potent, and the books that contain them are banned.
The written word creates reality. Historical fiction brings the past to life. A skilled writer can make us feel like we’re walking through Ancient China, Elizabethan England, or the Oregon Trail. And who hasn’t been so lost in the imaginary world of a novel that coming back to reality is a shock? Sometimes the ordinary can seem hum-drum after wandering in Narnia, Middle-Earth, or Pern.
And, yes, the written word has the ability to harm or heal. The introduction of any topic on Facebook – be in controversial or inoculate – will garner remarks of all sorts. It’s astonishing, really, how people write the most insulting, belittling, and downright mean words to one another. These words cut deep, piling on top of each other, until we stagger beneath the weight of them.
“So much death!” King Theoden says in The Two Towers. “What can men do against such reckless hate?”
What can we do?
We can write!
We can write words that uplift, inspire, and restore. We can tell stories of forgiveness, hope, and reconciliation. We can create winsome and complex characters who struggle and fall, get up and try again. We can introduce our readers to the Word who became flesh, and let His life-giving words colour ours.
For that is the privilege of a writer.
“My pen shall heal, not hurt,” vows Emily Starr from L.M. Montgomery’s book Emily Climbs.
We would do well to imitate her example.
Whether you’re a published author, a hopeful one, or simply a person who scribbles privately in his or her journal, your words matter.
Your words can change a life, or even the world!
This post first appeared on the International Christian Fiction Writers blog. They’ve got other great posts. Check it out!