Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do. -1 Thessalonians 5:9-11
They were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this about his Word?” -Luke 4:36
You cannot be a Christian and not be aware of the power of words. That familiar start of the gospel of John tells us that The Word (Christ) was there at the very beginning of all things. And through this Word all things were created. God’s word is an important part of our liturgy and prayers. And yet, do we take as much care with our own words as we should?
The people of Capernaum were amazed at the power of Jesus’ words. He was able to cast out demons, calm the sea and wind, and soften hardened hearts using His words. How often today words are used to harm and destroy, to break down, or to divide. Pope Francis often speaks of dialogue, whose Greek roots mean “through words,” when talking about the proper use of words: “I cannot ever tire of encouraging you to dialogue fearlessly.” To dialogue with someone is to stay in relationship, even through challenging times. We have the power to build up another, as St. Paul admonishes us to do.
So how can we use dialogue, especially when in conflict with others? First, start from curiosity. Ask questions to try and understand another’s point of view. You’re not gathering ammunition to clobber them with when you speak. Second, be transparent about your own point of view. We need to be fearless (as Pope Francis encourages us to be) to examine ourselves and be honest with our words. All of this should be done with compassion, both for ourselves as well as those we are dialoguing with.
If our words are imbued with Spirit, we will truly have the power to change the world. My prayer for myself today is that I consider all of my words and speak with compassion to all I meet.
Talib Huff is a retired teacher and a member of the retreat team at Christ the King Passionist Retreat Center in Citrus Heights, California. You can contact him at [email protected].