Your Words Matter
by Annie F. Downs
I wore my lucky shirt that day in July in the heat of Phoenix. I had only owned it for approximately three weeks, a birthday gift from some of my besties, but I knew it was lucky. I was at my first Girls of Grace speaking event and I was ready to rock it.
Or I was ready to throw up. Depending on the minute. Because sister here was nervous. Like whoa nervous.
After leaving Scotland, here I was in Phoenix, Arizona, jet-lagged and scared, speaking on a topic that was new to me: the power of words. Well, it was new to me in the “stand up in front of thousands of girls and talk about it” kind of way. I paced around the church all day while the event was happening, not sure where I was supposed to sit or stand or rest or read.
When the host introduced me, she said my book title wrong and was confused by my self-description of being a “nerd.” (I am a nerd, by the way. And proudly. DFTBA.1 I love the library, shows on PBS, sleeping with socks on, the Internet, and playing the French horn.)
There’s this thing that happens when I speak, which is between me and God. It’s like the whole time I’m talking I’m totally focused on the words and the audience and the next point, but I have one ear turned upward to hear if God is whispering anything. When I’m onstage, I feel like He is super focused on the moment and we are co-speaking. It’s hard to explain but super sweet.
It happened that day in Phoenix. I felt Him with me. And as I talked about the power of words and truth and how we were meant to create life with our words, every sentence became more and more true.
Afterward, girls rushed to my table. Do you know what they wanted?
They wanted to talk.
They wanted to tell me how they were verbally bullied by other girls. They told stories of heartbreaking words others had said to them, how they understood some of the stories I shared. They said to me, “I love Jesus and I want to use my words to honor Him.” Moms thanked me, repeatedly, for saying the things they were teaching at home: to use words for good, not evil. Then other women—the youth leaders and small group leaders—teared up and spilled their guts too.
And y’all? I was all, “We’ve hit a nerve here.” I realized the topic was important, but didn’t know it was THIS important. I had no idea.
Words. Words have done this.
But after many more Girls of Grace events and literally hundreds of conversations with women and thousands of teens hearing this message, this is the truth: Words kill. And words give life.
1For the uninitiated, that’s “Don’t Forget to Be Awesome.” Google “Vlogbrothers” and/or “Nerdfighters” now if you’ve haven’t before—I’ll wait.