When I was a kid, Excedrin pain reliever had this commercial in which the actor would open her hands around her head and say, “I’ve got a headache this big, and it’s got Excedrin written all over it.”
I loved that commercial – too much.
One Saturday when I was seven, I went around our apartment repeating the words of the commercial. My mom stopped me and said, “You need to be careful what you confess about yourself. You’re going to give yourself a headache.”
Even at seven years old, that sounded like hocus-pocus to me, so I laughed off my mom’s advice and kept saying it all day anyway. And lo and behold, late that afternoon, I got a skull-piercing headache that reduced me to tears. When I told my mom about it, she was compassionate, but she reminded me that she had warned me about “going around claiming a headache.”
I’ve never forgotten that self-induced headache and the lesson it taught me about the power of my words. To this day, I try to speak positively about my health, my circumstances, and the people in my life. I don’t want to go around generating “headaches” for myself or others.
I’m not saying that I think that our words have limitless magical powers, but they do have power. We were made in the image of God, the one who used language to speak the universe into existence. And when He gave us the capability to use words (something other mammals can’t do), He gave us the power to create or destroy without lifting a finger.
We see our child building a tower with blocks and say, “You’re really good at that.” We both forget it, but the child goes on to be an engineer.
Our spouse says something ditzy (again), and we call her “Barbie,” just like everyone else has her whole life. Surprise, surprise when she takes on the identity of the cute village idiot.
A co-worker comes to us and complains about the office every week, and we find ourselves seeing our workplace through a negative filter. But then we decide to push back, and the next time he starts complaining, we mention something at work we’re thankful for. Eventually, both of us end up feeling a little more grateful for our jobs (or he just stops talking to us), and work becomes a more pleasant place.
Our words are declarations of what we believe God can do with our circumstances and the people around us. And while there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging reality, at the same time, we need to acknowledge our ability to shape that reality by positively speaking the truth in love.