Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

The Revolutionary Power of Words

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Never, ever, ever underestimate the power your words can have. Take today July 4, for instance. In America, we call this “Independence Day” because it marks the beginning of our freedom. And it’s a testament to the power of words.

Revolutionary Words - Declaration of Independence

Photo credit: Flickr (Creative Commons)

How did such a revolution begin? With a Declaration, of course, a public proclamation that went like this:

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Powerful, right? I like that scene in National Treasure where Nicolas Cage says, “People don’t talk like that anymore.” I wish they would. It’s time to reclaim the revolutionary power of words.

Whoever said “talk is cheap” is a liar

Words are powerful, painful, awful, and amazing tools. They can hurt, help, hinder, and heal.

But they are not cheap. They are quite expensive.

Words cost something. Like your time and money. Sometimes, they even cost your patience or self-worth. Words have a price tag.

Words can change the world

They have before. Here are some examples of how communication has changed the world:

Words matter

You know this already. You have felt it. Sometimes, it was subtle, but you knew it was there. The potency of words. It’s immeasurable and unmistakeable.

If you listen to your life you can recall moments when you felt the brutal sting of words:

  • When the other kids called you “fat.”
  • When that boy dumped you for no reason.
  • When your dad called you “stupid.”
  • When you received that letter of rejection.
  • When your boss told you that you were fired.
  • When someone told you that cancer is “God’s will.”
  • When your wife asked when you were going to get a real job.

You personally know the impact words can have.

It’s your turn now

Say something worth saying. Don’t give in to the temptation to just fight back, to return an angry voice by raising your own. Don’t join the crowd of hurt people hurting other people.

Instead, use your words for something else. Something powerful, something subversive.

Better yet, let the words of your mouth reflect the actions of your life. Act first, speak second. But please, speak up. Say something.

Silence has often ushered evil into the world. There is a reason why Hitler gained power so quickly. He could speak. And there is a reason why he didn’t win the war. Someone else spoke up.

Be the person who says something when no one else is. Be brave. Dare to speak and have something worth talking about. Start a revolution with your words.

Talk is not cheap. It doesn’t have to be, anyway. Talk can be valuable. Talk can be rich and worthwhile and a gift to the world. So do us all a favor and open up your mouth.

Speak.

How have you seen the power of words in your own life? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. Check out my new book, The In-Between. To get exclusive updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • Darla Jung

    Thank you for this post and reminding me that words have power. My favorite quote in the Bible was written by King David (Psalms 45:1) and 2000 years later I am inspired, because he wrote what was in his heart and shared it with the world.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Amen, Darla. :)

  • http://www.lazychillies.com Kamalini

    Well, i’ll begin by saying that when i learnt to repeatedly say to myself (when troubled)- “how does it get any better than this!” i had unwittingly instilled deep gratitude in my life, thereby transforming each potentially misery-laden situation into a positive one- into one of movement and one of joy. I have taught it to my kids and my husband…and words are such a gift! I do so believe in the power of words and yes, they can change almost anything.

  • http://www.alyssapadgett.com Alyssa Padgett

    I think the most powerful words I’ve ever spoken are “I am a writer.” You may have to say them a million times first, but they’ll change your life.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      They really will. :)

  • http://www.toddkmarsha.com/ Todd K Marsha

    Fantastic, inspirational and timely post, Jeff. Great writing speaks to the reader globally and personally. I was called ‘fat’ as a kid. It’s stuck with me. Forgiveness is a process, not one moment in time. The wounds still hurt. Less than they used to, but they are still there.

    Now I have the power to create emotions with my words and I intend to use them to heal myself and those who read them. Lord knows we could all use some healing.

    Thanks again, Jeff, and Happy Independence Day!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Amen, Todd.

  • Krista

    This is fantastic!! One of the goals that I am working on lately is to learn to find my voice and speak up. Not only do the words of other people affect you, but so do the words that you speak to yourself, whether out loud or not. Every word, spoken or unspoken, carries an energy with it… we can either bring the energy of love into the world with them, or fear. It is our choice.

  • Marcy Mason McKay

    The powerful words I’m needing to speak these days are for myself. “I like WHO I am when I write.”

    • http://www.WesleyWiley.com/ Wesley Wiley

      I like that Marcy. I agree, for myself, that it’s so easy for me to play around with writing and not write, but I like who I am when I write. There’s something in me that needs to write, even if nobody reads it but me.

      • Marcy Mason McKay

        Exactly, Wesley. It delights me when others enjoy my writing, but MY SOUL needs it for just me, myself and I. Thanks~

  • Kirk Axelson

    Great Post Jeff! Loved your book “You are a writer” For nearly eleven years I’ve been saying “FANTASTIC! Every Day Is FRIDAY” It all began when my wife was killed. I needed all the energy I could to courageous raise a six year old daughter and eleven year old son without their mother. At the time was already battling my addiction to crystal meth while enveloped in grief and loss. Been saying FANTASTIC every since and now I’ve published a memoir titled FANTASTIC – How One Word Can Shape Your Destiny.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Wow. Powerful. I’m so sorry for your loss, Kirk. Your attitude, though, is fantastic. :)

      • http://www.fantasticeverydayisfriday.com/ Kirk Axelson

        Jeff, thanks for the kind words. Words do make a difference as I feel your words through my heart and soul.

      • http://www.fantasticeverydayisfriday.com/ Kirk Axelson

        Forgot to mention about year ago I was having writers block and bought your book “You are a writer” it was tool I needed to get past that point to finish the book. Thanks.

  • Paul Potter

    Jeff, Thanks for the reminder on the power of words. I’m at my in laws for the holidays. My father in law mental status is failing. He frequently says harsh and harmful words to his wife. Those words are very difficult for her and my wife. Your words reminded me to say encouraging, positive words to them to strengthen them. Remaining silent, angry or fearful is not an option. Happy 4th.

  • http://www.alvaradofrazier.com/ Mona AlvaradoFrazier

    Jeff, I can only say, “AMEN,” to your words.

  • Katie

    The most powerful impact of words has been the ones I choose to use for myself and my process. I used to use a lot of “have to” and “must” and “need to”…but I felt myself sabotaging my efforts because those words felt like demands versus choices. So now I use “want to” and “may” and I find that I have much more success.

  • http://kimanziconstable.com/ kimanzi constable

    Reading powerful words from my heroes inspired me to stop making excuses and start chasing what seemed like an impossible dreams. I needed those words and that’s why now I write a few words of my own. There are power in words. A lesson that we constantly need to hear.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Indeed.

  • http://www.shawnandrews.net Shawn Andrews

    My wife’s Grandpa spent a lifetime proving that he wasn’t the “dumb farm kid” a teacher told him he was. I can either build my kids up with the right words, or destroy them in an instant with careless words. The Bible says out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Words matter.

  • http://www.ashestobeauty.net/ Lily

    I totally agree… Words have so much power. Thank you for inspiring us to use our words wisely and to make a difference! That is my heart, too!

  • Maha

    When I was at the middle school ,there was an activity group who prepare some thing to say in the morning using microphone before the student headed toward their classes I asked the teacher I want to join this group ,she made a test to read a paragraph in front of her , I read it quickly I thought it is a clever , but she refused me without correcting ,just “you can’t you’re rush .” She didn’t give me another chance . Do you believe until now I can’t talk in front of people using a microphone , Even after I became a teacher for many years , I was in a room and there was no body when I tried ( because some body asked me to say some thing to the students ) , the words didn’t come out ,I put the mica on the desk and left the room .

  • http://www.shiftintohappiness.com/ Nasri Nasir

    At times, I can see that the power of words can allow me to go into deep thoughts, to reflect on life. Even small phrases or quotes sentenced well brings me to a place of questioning, a catalyst to ignite that fuel within when I’m stuck or lost.

    Have I done what needs to be done, perhaps, but it does get me started.

    On a side note, Jeff, what would be your advice for someone to learn and improve, to speak great words, words that may influence others, and if one does found themselves to have something worth talking about, where would they start?

  • http://www.createk12change.com Russell Warren Kukla

    I really like the song BRAVE by Sara Bareilles. Of course she sings about speaking up but the same goes for being brave when Writing. “Say what you wanna say and let the words fall out.” Honestly.

  • Jeanette Chiapperino

    Thanks for reminding me of the importance of our words. I have a blog that I abandoned a couple of years ago. It’s still out there but I lost heart and didn’t think it really made a difference. I was blogging about dealing with depression and a particular mental illness, the joys, the sorrows, medication struggles, learning to live well, etc. A handful of people over the years had commented that it had helped them. I guess it’s not just about who responds. It’s about anyone who comes across it and reads it. A seed is planted that might help them or a loved one someday. And it’s about me using words for good, sharing lessons learned, wisdom, to help others the way God intended. He’s done amazing things to get me through my struggles thus far and I should be writing about the insights I’ve gained to bless whoever comes across my blog. I guess you’ve given me the push I needed to bring it up-to-date and get it going again.

    Thanks Jeff

  • David Mike

    The book “You Are A Writer” plus Jon Acuff’s Start Experiment, gave me the courage to start writing. Thank you! Also I have received so many positive comments on my blog that it validates that I’m doing it for the right reason. Everyone has been so positive and encouraging.

  • http://www.liveitforward.com/ Kent Julian

    What births inspired ideas better than pregnant words?

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Poetic, Kent. :)

  • http://humbleservant423.blogspot.com Timothy Yohe

    Thank you for sharing this article. I got a little chuckle from your “brutal sting of words”….my dad called me stupid ( not so funny), but my wife does ride me about my writing endeavors as not being job worthy. She’ll see it different someday. :)

  • semika

    really words do make a difference….just like your words now inspired a lot of us to write something more beautiful….,

  • http://www.WesleyWiley.com/ Wesley Wiley

    Well said. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Proverbs 18:21

  • http://ayearinthespirituallife.blogspot.com/ Dayna Renee Hackett Bickham

    I just got back from a mission trip to Haiti. I saw this over there and here every day. We can hand out food, we can build wells and mend fences, but when we speak into people’s worlds we change the very atmosphere around them. We give them the room to grow into the declarations we pronounce. On my email signature and my business cards it says “Author, Speaker, and World Changer” — Those are the words I speak over myself and every time someone reads them they become more powerful and more true. What we say we hear. If I say “I’m fat” I hear “You’re fat.” so I need to stop saying that and instead replace it with “I’m changing.” and “I’m healthy.” Hearing these things will create the room in my head, my heart, and even my body to change. Jeff — this reminds me so much of what was said in Guatemala and what is whispered so often to me in my heart. I need to say it more “Out Loud” so I can hear it too. I do not know how you keep getting better and better, but you do. Best post yet. Ever. End of story. ;)

  • John R. Gagne

    Thank you.

  • Michelle Homme

    For the last couple of weeks, I have been struggling with the meaning of my words. Feeling the need to share them has become a calling and yet it had become routine for no one to notice. So, doubt and wondering if it even mattered came to the surface. Most of us never know the impact our words have on others. Sometimes, we are unaware of the impact ourselves until a moment hits us, and we are jolted into a dimension that ceased to exist just before. But last night, I received a message from maybe the last person I would have expected words (let alone kind words) from and she thanked me. She had used my words to remind her who she is and who she wants to be and is currently on a new journey to find that out. I was flabbergasted enough to where I as almost shaking. My first thought was that she had reached to me at all, but to thank me wasn’t something I expected. I was at a loss for words. Truly. But in those few short sentences and the meaning behind each and every one, I felt the struggles of my anxiousness and worry slip away. Words are powerful and give people the permission they are missing so that they invoke action. If not action, reaffirmation.

  • Marieca

    Just had a chance to read this it was very inspirational and powerful! I’ve been toying with whether or not to say certain things on my blog but this is a confirmation. Thank you for this post.

  • Renee

    I see how the power of words has affected how I see myself and what I accomplish. Encouraging words and empowering words have completely transformed who I am and the confidence I have in my own abilities. A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. (Prov. 15:4)

  • Olivia Richard

    Even small phrases or quotes sentenced well brings me to a place of questioning, a catalyst to ignite that fuel within when I’m stuck or lost.

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