The Power of Words

Every word we speak has power and takes on a life of its own.  Each word, each syllable, has energy.  We give them life by the process of speaking them.   We infuse particles of ourselves, our life energy, into each effort of speech.  In his bestselling book, The Four Agreements, author Don Miguel Ruiz says:

The word is not just a sound or a written symbol.  The word is a force; it is the power you have to express and communicate, to think, and thereby to create the events in your life.  You can speak. What other animal on the planet can speak?  The word is the most powerful tool you have as a human; it is the tool of magic.  (pg. 26, The First Agreement – Be Impeccable With Your Word)

When we speak or write, we use the vehicles of words to carry meaning, as well as energy, from ourselves to another person or group of people. We may be speaking to our baby, our boss, or to an audience of 500 people. We may be writing a love letter, a work-related memo, or an entry in our own diary. Whatever the case, each word we speak or write has a life of its own, a vibratory signature that creates waves in the same way that a note of music creates waves. And like musical notes, our words live in communities of other words and change in relation to the words that surround them. When we are conscious of the energy behind our words, we become capable of making beautiful music in the world. If we are unconscious of the power of words, we run the risk of creating a noisy disturbance.

Some of us know this instinctively, while others come to this understanding slowly. Most of us, though, speak without thinking at least some of the time, blurting out our feelings and thoughts without much regard for the words we choose to express them. When we remind ourselves that our words have an impact on the world at the level of energy, we may find within ourselves the desire to be more aware of our use of language.

A writer might know this better than others because they study the specific relationship that words have with one another, whether in dialogue or in narrative.  How a word looks on a page is as important as the word itself, as well as the words that surround it.  Writers – good writers – have worked at becoming excellent at the use of words, and the power they invoke.  The same applies to everyday language.  The ways in which words are used can create a beautiful or hostile environment.   Poets use words to paint vivid imagery, or to produce abstract ideas.

Choose a favorite passage from a poem or book and study the way the author has put his or her words together, and what they produce for you.  Why does it resonate with you?  What power does it invoke within?

The following is a poem that creates some vivid images and ideas while conveying power through language.

The Words Under the Words


for Sitti Khadra, north of Jerusalem

My grandmother’s hands recognize grapes,
the damp shine of a goat’s new skin.
When I was sick they followed me,
I woke from the long fever to find them
covering my head like cool prayers.
My grandmother’s days are made of bread,
a round pat-pat and the slow baking.
She waits by the oven watching a strange car
circle the streets. Maybe it holds her son,
lost to America. More often, tourists,
who kneel and weep at mysterious shrines.
She knows how often mail arrives,
how rarely there is a letter.
When one comes, she announces it, a miracle,
listening to it read again and again
in the dim evening light.
My grandmother’s voice says nothing can surprise her.
Take her the shotgun wound and the crippled baby.
She knows the spaces we travel through,
the messages we cannot send—our voices are short
and would get lost on the journey.
Farewell to the husband’s coat,
the ones she has loved and nourished,
who fly from her like seeds into a deep sky.
They will plant themselves. We will all die.
My grandmother’s eyes say Allah is everywhere, even in death.
When she talks of the orchard and the new olive press,
when she tells the stories of Joha and his foolish wisdoms,
He is her first thought, what she really thinks of is His name.
“Answer, if you hear the words under the words—
otherwise it is just a world with a lot of rough edges,
difficult to get through, and our pockets full of stones.”