The Power in a Word

By Devin Riggs, Regular ContributorOctober 26, 2015

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose

by any other name would smell as sweet”

-William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet


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I’ve been struggling with labels lately, struggling with the power of just one word; how it can pull at me, push at me, make me laugh, or make me cry.

In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet believes there is nothing in a name. It doesn’t matter what we call ourselves. It doesn’t matter what we call others. It’s what’s in our hearts. And while that’s romantic and idealistic for a teenage girl who has recently fallen in love…it’s just not how the world works.

Words matter. Words are power.

Words can move a nation. Words can break a heart. Words can paint an intricate masterpiece. Words can ostracize and belittle. They can lift you up. They can tear you down.

And I think we’ve forgotten how easy it is, with just one simple word—to create and to destroy. People are so flippant with their words these days, like they don’t matter, like they don’t make a difference in the lives of those they’re talking to. Especially on the Internet, people don’t realize the impact of what they’re saying.

I have the hardest time with those who will say something hurtful or unnecessary or untrue and then immediately follow it up with, “just kidding, it’s a joke!”

Then why did you say it?

Why did you allow those words into the world? Why did you have to hurt me? Because you did hurt me. And you don’t get to choose whether I got hurt or not. Just because you said it as a joke doesn’t mean it’s okay to say it. That’s not an excuse you get to use to save yourself from consequence.

We have got to stop saying things we don’t mean.

We have got to stop calling each other names. We have got to stop believing our words mean nothing. There is always consequence.

There is a quote I remind my students of frequently,

“Before you speak, ask yourself: is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?” –Sai Baba

Do your words give or take away? Do they fill people up or do they empty?

What you say matters. How you say it matters. And the way you clarify it speaks volumes to your character. Speak with integrity and passion. Believe that your words can change the world—because they can, and they will, in ways you may not even intend. So be careful with that power you hold. Use it wisely.

Let's chat!

Have you ever been hurt by words? Encouraged by them? How can you use your words to start bettering the world around you? Tell us below!

About Devin

DEVIN_RIGGS_writer_bio_(1).jpgDevin has a degree in education with a focus in English. She is working to publish her first collection of poetry while also learning the art of patience. Her passions include Doctor Who, penguins, hats and scarves, potatoes, dancing, photography, and making people happy. She believes in the healing powers of music, spending time in the great outdoors, and a good night sleep.


Every girl is a work in progress. If you need more help, click here.


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