There’s Power in Them Thar Words!

“You’re fired.”

When Donald Trump utters those now infamous words on The Celebrity Apprentice, there’s something more going on than public, celebrity humiliation. A new reality is being created.

With his words, Donald Trump is literally changing reality, right before our eyes. Someone goes from being “employed” to “unemployed” because of two spoken words.This is the basic premise of the Speech-Act Theory: Our words can shape reality.

If The Celebrity Apprentice isn’t your thing, the same situation occurs when two people declare their vows to each and the officiant declares they are married. In our tradition, we say something like:

Susy and Bobby, by their promises spoken before God and the eyes of the witnesses, are now joined together as husband and wife.

New reality. Created through words. Speech-Act in effect.

Jesus Speaks New Realities Into Existence

With that working knowledge in mind, take a look at what Jesus says in the Gospel of John:

If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. John 15:22

Jesus, in a nutshell, is describing what happens in the Speech-Act theory: Words create new realities. Jesus spoke to his original audience and told them how the Kingdom of God truly worked. Before that they lived in ignorance (outside of the Law, anyway) of how life with God truly worked. But now, with Jesus on the scene, speaking new realities into existence, the people (i.e. you and me) have no excuse to live like God does not exist.

Humbling, isn’t it?

I realize this may be an over-simplification of the reality of evangelism, but the basic principle is transferrable: By our words we create reality. By his words, Jesus spoke a new reality where people can no longer hide behind ignorance and claim that God does not exist or that they, in fact, are not without fault.

Creating New Realities in My Own Life

I often wonder how this theory plays out in my own life, specifically in the context of Jesus’ words.

For instance, how often do I bite my tongue and hold back difficult yet truthful words for fear of the consequences? The people I need to speak to are living in a reality where my words have yet to make an impact in this specific area. They are, in Jesus’ words, “not guilty” of their sin. Why? Because I haven’t spoken yet. Those words exist only in my reality, not theirs.

Does this make sense?

I’m increasingly convinced that, yes, our words can certainly be harmful to others if we misspeak out of ignorance or pain. However, I’m more convinced that our words have the ability to create realities that are better and more beneficial than the ones we currently live in.

“There’s power in them thar words.”

In the Speech-Act Theory, words cannot work if they aren’t spoken. They have to be uttered to have power. I’m focusing on making new realities with my words that not only benefit me, but bring healing, hope, life, truth and the Kingdom of God into the lives of those who hear them?

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2 Responses to “There’s Power in Them Thar Words!”

  1. Jason Vana March 17, 2011 at 10:05 am #

    “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” – Proverbs 18:21

    What we speak definitely has the power to either bring life or death to people, even ourselves. There area a lot of times I have to catch myself from speaking things over my own life that would hinder me – like “am I really cut out for this?”

    Today I’m trying to speak courage, life and growth into existence.

  2. Daryl Carlson March 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

    So true, but you missed a spot. Words that are not spoken are equally if not more powerful. Our thoughts are words spoken to ourselves. They shape how we see the world and how we behave. James is right when he says our tongue sets the course of our lives because we have an internal ‘tongue’ that speaks to ourselves.

    Take this reality to what Jesus says about lusting ‘in our heart’. When we do lust in our minds it is real! We may not act on it, but it is real in how it impacts us and others second hand.