Power of Words by Doctor Tom Graves

Words have two meanings which are denotation and connotation. Denotation is the basic concept that a word points to in a speaker’s and listener’s minds. For example, house means a structure that people live in. Connotation is the individual’s emotional reaction to the word. ‘House’ means something emotionally different to a real estate agent powerof-wordscompared to a mortgage paying homeowner, which is somewhat different from that of someone who rents. A homeowner is more aware of maintenance of the property than the renter. Abstract words like ‘kindness’, ‘love’, ‘hunger’ also means something different depending on a person’s cultural upbringing and experiences in life. and it is the same for religious and spiritual references like ‘God ” and ‘church’ and even a word like ‘school’.

Words have emotional power, and can be used for both good and not-so-good reasons. Ephesian 4:29 says “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” This is a spiritual matter. Is your speech positive and edifying or negative and destructive? There is really no such thing as “positive” criticism. This same information can be gently delivered as suggestions, if you deliver it with encouraging spiritual intent. It is better to avoid saying words-are-powerful-they-can-create-or-they-can-destroy-so-choose-your-words-wisely-quote-1critical things trying to get people to behave physically like you might think they should. Romans 14:17 says, “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,” because being fair to others, getting along with them, and having fun are spiritually important, whereas trying to get people to adopt your veganism or political viewpoint only leads to discord and strife.

People do react negatively to words and phrases that belittle their beliefs. Another bad use of words is the news which continually harps on the bad things that happen. This is spiritually draining from the negative emotions that it produces in people. Then there are people who will use the Bible to criticize others. There is nothing spiritual about such a use of scripture. So it is better to monitor what you say and speak words that build up the positive emotions in other people. And you will benefit by helping to make the world a better place.

Tom has a Ph.D. in Linguistics from SUNY at Buffalo. His dissertation was a grammar of the Sherpa Language, so he actually has recordings of Ang Chhuldim Dorjee speaking Sherpa.  He has taught 140 college classes in the areas of Linguistics, English, and Medical Terminology. 

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