The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. – John 6:63b
After completing their spelling/vocabulary/poetry curriculum for the school year, my two high school juniors wrote essays about the power of words.
Below is my daughter’s essay; I posted my son’s on Thursday. We welcome your own thoughts about words in the comments.
Proper diction is an important skill to use in many respects. Elocution will help a person succeed in personal relationships and in the workplace. In personal relationships, expressing oneself clearly is vital to retaining peace with others; when people can verbalize their feelings and thoughts well, being kind, truthful, and understandable is easier. According to author Ken Sande, “Godly communication usually leads to better understanding and agreement.” God commands people to use their words well in Ephesians 4:29: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” In the workplace, receiving a job, keeping a job, and being promoted can all result from speaking intelligently and using courtesy. The Bible says in Proverbs 21:23, “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.”
People in our modern culture are not nearly as articulate as people of past times. Whereas once people expressed themselves with eloquence, wit, and intelligence, the majority today possess limited vocabularies, poor public speaking ability, and improper grammar. This epidemic of seemingly lowered intelligence may have sprung from many sources, but I believe one important source is the abandonment of the Bible. The Bible teaches that “[W]hatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23). However, people don’t have reason to do their absolute best if they do not believe the Bible. Forsaking biblical principles such as hard work, special creation, and unselfishness has caused this generation to become apathetic.
Our society also seems to have neglected self-respect and orderly living. God is organized in everything he does. All of Creation evidences that. God also wants us to do things in an orderly fashion, by avoiding laziness, living a balanced life, and putting forth our best effort in all things. Evidence abounds that people have forgotten these principles, especially in the area of speech. Idle, pointless, unintelligent talk is the majority of what leaves some people’s lips. Many words have become seldom used, while others are grossly overused. Few people seem to enjoy reading or bettering themselves in other simple ways. In addition, people with good oration skills are few. These issues stem at least in part from forsaking the wisdom of God in the Bible.
One important issue about proper speech is something people have always struggled with, but it seems to have worsened recently. That issue is the use of words to say meaningful, kind things. The Bible has much wisdom on this topic: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). “Let your speech [be] alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Colossians 4:6). Using kind, truthful words is more important even than proper diction or eloquence. The website Art of Eloquence quoted Mother Teresa, “Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.” Additionally, learning when and when not to speak is paramount. “A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it” (Proverbs 15:23). Only saying important things is a skill people will notice. “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise” (Proverbs 17:28).
In my life, there are many things I can do to improve my own diction. A simple technique to employ is to try to avoid words such as “like,” “um,” or “just.” Instead, I can expand my vocabulary and use more specific words that I already know. Another simple technique is to use correct grammar and complete sentences when speaking as well as when writing. More importantly, I can always try to ensure that my words are true, honest, important, necessary, and kind.
Proper word usage has been neglected, but if we learn to do as God says, we will want to use the gift of speech as he intended it to be used.
For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. – Matthew 12:37