Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

The Revolutionary Power of Words

Never, ever, ever underestimate the power your words can have. Take today July 4th, 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.

The Revolutionary Power of Words

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 write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.”

    • 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.

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

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

      • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 .

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • What births inspired ideas better than pregnant words?

  • 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….,

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

  • 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.

  • I know about the the power of words. Negative words spoken easily discourage me, while written words typically lift, encourage and challenge my thoughts. Because of my experiences, I am in the life long school of carefully choosing my words.

  • Charlotte Hyatt

    Yes, I have felt the power of words in my life. Words meant to hurt; YOU want a job?!? And words of healing, “Come unto me all ye that are weary and I will give you rest!!!”

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  • Richa

    “Power of Words” its amazing but i did not know them till the time i didn’t realize it, how it could be very effective in my life, i came to know when i started sharing my thoughts with other.

  • Stephanie Hynds

    Amen! Lovely post. As I read through the ‘Words can change the world’ section, I got goosebumps. Thank you.

  • L_Saba

    I work at the bookends of life, serving as a birth, death, and mourning doula. Words – both spoken and unspoken – are tremendously powerful at these intense moments of life ,and can shift the events as they unfold.

  • ohita afeisume

    Thanks, Jeff for this excellent post. A timely reminder that we should use words to build ourselves and others up- as spouses, parents, children, friends,schoolmates, teachers, colleagues at work or in business. I’ve never forgotten a nursery rhyme which says: “If you can’t say something nice, better shut your mouth is my advice.”

    Good that this is something everyone can learn to do. With practice it soon becomes a way of life.

  • Caroline DePalatis

    Such an exciting, inspiring post, Jeff! Thanks! I will share this! Such powerful instruments, our words. We can build up and we can tear down. This makes me think of the section in the Book of James (ch 3) about bridling the tongue. A very timely truth to reflect upon as we head towards our November presidential election….

  • Carla Tugues Saura

    Hi Jeff, I must admit, this is mi first time writing a comment in a blog. First I must thank you for all the invaluable content I have read in your blog so far (im pretty sure that i could spent hours reading it all). Second you have helped me in my process of opening my mind (I have been working on that for a measurable time now) and have given me great resources for what im doing and what i am becoming. I have been struggling for the last our to stop digging into your articles and learning all the valuable stuff you are offering. This is a great place to learn and inspire ourselves. Than you.

  • SusanFeehan

    My favourite words are these, known as Theodore Roosevelt’s man in the arena speech. They’ve kept me going in many a dark hour.
    It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

  • Terri Hairston

    Yes, I agree with you Jeff. Life & death is in the power of the tongue. You hear people say, I don’t feel like I have any power, concerning such & such. The truth is that you do. This poem that I wrote about that years ago, expresses my feeling about it.
    The Power of Words

    Life and death, is in the power of the tongue. Watch your mouth, closely …. so that, no one gets stung. Words generate energy, to create or destroy, to lift up or make heavy, or to spread joy. God, help me to use them, wisely. Impart the wisdom from above. Make me sharp, as a serpent and yet, harmless ….as a dove. Words are a gift, God has given to man. Written or spoken….the power is in your hand.—- Terri Hairston 8/11/2008

  • wendygoerl

    I collect a lot of people’s words (i.e. quotations). Unfortunately, the ones that resonate most with me seem to be the most powerless words on the planet:

    “The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.”
    –Carl Jung

    “A nation that expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, expects what never was and never will be.”
    –Thomas Jefferson

    “Corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators is a phenomenon of which no age nor nation has furnished an example.”
    -Thomas Jefferson

    and my all-time greatest quote . . .

    “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
    –Benjamin Franklin

  • Monique Allen

    Great post. I do agree that words are powerful. When words are connected to the eyes – when people speak TO you and not AT you. When they catch your eyes, when they say they are sorry or that they love you and look at you when they speak – oh boy, what a connection!

  • Rechelle Rozwadowski

    An inspiring call to revere the power of words. I love this idea, thank you for using your words to remind me of this.

  • Rachel

    SO, SO GOOD!!! Thank you!!!

  • jkohnen

    I pick up phrases and write them down in a notebook or clip them to Evernote files. There is typically a theme, and the past week has been about forgiveness. On Saturday, someone mentioned that that no other religion teaches forgiveness like Christianity; teaches that one must forgive to be forgiven, Christianity puts that condition on ones self. What is it like to forgive myself about any friends, families, strangers and politicians that irk me? It feels like making amends or letting go of things that keep you stuck in anger or indignation.

  • Cliff Feightner

    Too many say talk is cheap
    But the price of words can be steep
    You should watch what is said
    That comes out of your head
    So those in contact with you will not weep

  • Caio Vinícius

    Oh, this is beautiful!
    I am from Brazil, so 4th July is just another day to me, but yet I understand the meaning of it. We don’t have a BIG celebration about our own Independence Day, and it would be nice to give the importance that it has. I’m writing a blog post about it.
    The power of words… what an amazing post, so full of… revolution! Beautiful, just beautiful.
    One of the strongest things about Brazil Independence, is the words from D. Pedro I, he screamed it across Ipiranga river, and it would be like “Independence or death!” Or something close to this. In portuguese, it was “Independência ou morte!”. A strong phrase, that lead to the independence of Brazil from Portugal.
    I guess my point is: it doesn’t matter where you live, or where you came from, words will always be our most inexhaustible source of magic. (Quoting Dumbledore, from Harry Potter)

    Thank you for the beautiful (yes, again) post about the revolutionary power of words, and I hope that it will inspire a lot of souls, like it did with mine.

  • Chris Tracy

    When I write encouraging words to others, I in turn am encouraged. I started a blog four years ago that I hope encourages many. So many people live hopeless, sad, defeated lives. That’s not what we are made for. I want to use my words to change that! These are short pieces of morning inspirations. Here is the address: http://www.crispmountainair.blogspot.com.

  • This article is great. When I first started writing I wanted to have my words light fire in the world, but as I continue it is all too easy to forget this amazing ability words have. Thank you for this reminder. Today (and the days after) I’ll use my words with respect for their power.

  • Sarah Goodwin

    That was a powerful post! Perfect example of the point you were trying to get across 😉 and inspiring too!