Thursday, November 6, 2008
The Power of a Word
I remember after I got married how my Mom really urged me to quickly send out my thank you notes to all the people who gave us wedding gifts. I did it, but it was a chore trying to write something sincere in over 200 notes! I was surprised at how many people warmly told me they appreciated my thank you card.
I wish I could say that I continue to be wonderful at writing thank you notes, but I'm not. I'm much better at verbally thanking someone (or emailing a thank you) if the chance arises. For some reason, hand-written letters are things I rarely get around to. Recently, however, I received two different hand-written thank you notes from others. As I read them I could feel my heart warm toward the people who took the time to thank me for something I had done that they appreciated. It's amazing how much power two words have to bless someone, and how many times I miss the chance.
We all know that words have power, but I wonder how often we really think about it. Words are like tools that we can use to build up or tear down. I read a study about how it takes 10 compliments about performance ("I like the way you play the piano", etc.) to erase the effects of one critical remark about performance--("You stink at playing the piano".) It takes 100 compliments about our personhood--("You are a wonderful person") to erase the effects of one critical remark about our personhood--("You are stupid"). Holding such power in our mouths is an awesome responsibility.
There's a story in the Bible about how 10 men with leprosy came to Jesus asking to be healed. He told them all to go and wash in the river and they did and were healed. They all went on their merry way in health--except ONE of them returned to thank Jesus for healing him. Jesus told him his faith had made him whole. None of the other men lost their healing, but I have to believe there must have been something special that happened inside the man who remembered to thank Jesus for his healing.
A Japanese scientist has studied the effects of words on water by freezing the water crystals after certain words are spoken or even just attached to containers of water. He has found that words of prayer and healing yield beautiful symmetrical water crystals while words of cursing bring about chaotic scattered crystals.
The beautiful little picture attached to this that looks like a snowflake is actually a frozen water crystal taken after someone said the words "Thank you."
If the human body is composed of mostly water, think of the incredible inner work of beauty that those two words construct within a person when they hear, or when they say "Thank you."
As I enter this season of Thanksgiving, I'm committing myself to saying thank you more often. It reconnects me to the goodness of God, it's great for my insides, and it blesses others. It takes so little time and costs me nothing--that is unless I ever decide to actually write it out and send it in the mail!