The Power of Words

Yael Eckstein  |  April 19, 2024

A mother and daughter smiling while sitting on a bench

The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
    but the tongue of the wise brings healing
. — Proverbs 12:18

We continue with devotional thoughts from the Book of Proverbs every Friday. One of the 11 books in the Torah known as the Ketuvim, Hebrew for “writings,” Proverbs is part of the “wisdom tradition,” which also includes Job and Ecclesiastes.

There is a story told about a young Thomas Edison who came home one day with a paper for his mother. He told her, “My teacher told me to give this paper only to my mother.” Thomas’s mother read the note and her eyes filled with tears. Thomas asked his mother what the note said. She read: “Your son is a genius. This school is too small for him and doesn’t have enough good teachers for training him. Please teach him yourself.” And that is exactly what Thomas’s mother did; she homeschooled her child with devotion and dedication.

Many years later after Edison’s mother passed on, and he had become one of the world’s greatest inventors, Edison found a folded paper among other family items. He opened the paper that had once been handed to him to give only to his mother and read the following message: “Your son is mentally ill. We won’t let him come to school anymore.” Edison realized what his mother had done for him so many years ago. He wrote in his diary, “Thomas Alva Edison was an addled child that, by a hero mother, became the genius of the century.”

The Power of Words

As a mother, I love this story because it demonstrates the power of a loving parent. However, it also carries another important message. It demonstrates the power of our words. As King Solomon wrote, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Can you imagine what might have happened to Thomas Edison if his mother had read to him the reckless and hurtful words written by his foolish teacher? Thank God for the wise words of his mother!

In teaching about the power of our words, the Talmud says that speaking hurtful words is worse than cheating in business. While it is wrong to cheat, the criminal act is potentially reversible. A person can become remorseful and give back what was stolen. Yet words cannot be taken back and the damage of reckless words cannot be undone. They can scar a person for life.

Let’s take this message to heart and resolve to use the power of our words for healing today. Just as hurtful words can cause lifelong damage, so can kind words positively affect a person for life. God gave us the awesome power of speech—it’s our responsibility to use it wisely.

Your Turn:

Use the power of your speech to uplift someone today.