Oh the power of WORDS—they are such tiny little things, and yet they carry so much weight! I’ve seen firsthand the damage that comes from reckless sarcasm. I’ve accidentally burned a few people in my day, and I’ve been on the receiving end of these burns as well.

On the other hand, I’ve seen someone’s demeanor change because of a well-worded compliment. I’m not talking about the fake “I like your necklace” kind of compliments we give when we are trying to make conversation — I’m talking about the real-deal, “I noticed something uniquely special about you” compliments that often require a bit of confidence to give. The kind that cause the recipient to smile a little brighter and stand a little taller.

In the Bible, God’s Word is described as a double-edged sword that comes out of His mouth. Add to this the knowledge that we are the ones who carry His Word to the world, and that equates to holding a lot of power in a tiny piece of flesh.

Here are four ways that words have the power to alter your life and the lives of others.

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21).

1. Your words carry supernatural power to bless or to curse.

I don’t know how I forget this truth so often, since the idea of blessing and cursing is repeated all throughout the Bible. Receiving a blessing was a big deal, and curses were taken very seriously.

We’ve confined “cursing” to using a few dirty words, but the reality is that these words were curse words because they were literally used to place curses on people. For example, damning someone is a verbal curse because you are condemning them to hell, but now if someone uses “damn” as an expletive because they stubbed their toe, we say that they cursed.

When you get angry at your child, sibling, or friend and yell, “I hate you! You’re worthless!” that is closer to being a verbal curse than yelling a bad word when you were in pain. Your words were careless, hurtful, and likely had a lasting effect on the person you spoke them to (especially if they are words you repeat often in fits of anger).

On the flip side, a genuine compliment or word of encouragement has the power to change someone’s life. My friend Bonnie is the first person that comes to mind when I think of blessing someone with words. She has this ability to find the beauty in those around her, and she’s always giving out the most thoughtful, genuine compliments. Her words have the power to lift people up and make them feel beautiful, valuable, and important.

2. The words that you speak about your life influence its direction and control your perspective.

We often forget that our words affect our attitude each day. I see this truth in action every day that I work. When I choose to complain about petty things, my attitude starts to get worse. If somebody asks how I’m doing and I say, “I’m tired”, I start to feel tired (even if I wasn’t that tired and was just responding out of habit). If I indulge in gossip about a coworker, I start to feel even more negatively toward them. If I’m asked how I’m doing and I respond, “I’m doing well!”, then I start to feel even happier. If I speak positive words about a coworker, then I start to feel even more positively about that person.

On a greater scale, we need to be speaking positive words about our future. If we say over and over that we’re never going to succeed, then our outlook will take a nosedive and we’re much less likely to succeed. But speaking positive words about the future God has for us will breed hope, which will keep us motivated, energized, and working hard toward our goals.

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3. The words that others speak about you can influence your direction and control your perspective.

We like to pretend that words spoken about us by others aren’t hurtful. I know that when I get upset, I’m frequently told that I should, “just stop caring” or “stop being so sensitive”. The truth is that if someone tells you repeatedly that you are worthless, that you’ll never succeed, or that you aren’t beautiful, it’s very likely that you’ve started believing those lies.

The words that have been spoken to you have greatly altered your perspective of yourself. If the pain was really bad, they may have even prevented you from living out your dreams or from being the person you want to be.

Instead of pretending that words don’t affect you, the best route is to admit to yourself and to God that you have been hurt.

Go to Jesus and give him all of the words that you’ve taken to heart and ask him to replace these things with the truth about how God sees you. Invite the Holy Spirit into this prayer time and ask him to cleanse you from these lies and empower you to live with confidence.

“He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver” (Isaiah 49:2).

4. Your tongue is a weapon to break the chains of others.

I’m going to illustrate this one with a personal story. I had a friend who believed in God, but had completely turned away from him. He would bristle whenever I mentioned God and was never receptive to what I had to say. But one day, God gave me a word of encouragement to share with him about his future.

When I pulled him aside to tell him, I struggled to get the words out and worried that they wouldn’t have any power because I wasn’t speaking very powerfully in a natural sense. But immediately after I spoke, I felt that something had shifted. My friend who wanted nothing to do had a softness in his eyes that I had never seen before. He walked away with an entirely different demeanor.

It’s incredible how those words God asked me to speak ended up changing his path. This experience helped me to understand the power of God’s word. GOD is the one who hardens and softens hearts, and HIS WORD, the Sword in His mouth, has the power to reach the unreachable.

Are the words that you speak about your life pushing you toward your purpose, or pulling you further away from it? Resolve today to start speaking words that are edifying rather than destructive.