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Howard Coop | The powerful effect words can have

A brief note, part of which is illegible, that I had written to myself, and forgotten for a long time, came to my attention unexpectedly. That poorly-written note mentioned a meeting with two friends, each of which had come from a recent encounter with their friends. One was exceedingly downhearted, and the other one was positively upbeat. A brief conversation with those individuals was revealing. One of them reported a bad experience in which some unkind words had been spoken, and the other one reported a good experience in which some kind words had been spoken. Each one of them showed, in a very remarkable way, the powerful effect of both unkind words and kind words on the human personality. 

 As I reflected on that old note and the encounter with my friends that it recalled, some words, much older than that old note, came to my mind. More than twenty-five hundred years ago, it had already become proverbial that “An anxious heart —that may come from unkind words — weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”  Then, another old proverb of equal age came to mind, “The right word spoken at the right time is as beautiful as golden apples in a silver bowl.”

Who of us does not know from personal experience the truth of those words? I do, for I have experienced that truth many times.  On some occasions, I have been hurt by deeply unkind words, and on other occasions, I have been highly elated by kind and uplifting words spoken by a friend. We cannot escape the fact:  words, however spoken, do have a powerful effect. A long time ago it was put this way, “The tongue is a small thing, but what damage it can do.” On the other hand, the tongue can do great good. With words spoken, it can either break the human heart or it can lift the human spirit to lofty heights.