If You Want to Change Things, Remember Every Revolution Begins with Words
Never, ever, ever underestimate the power your words can have. Take today — July 4th — for instance. In America, we call this Independence Day, because it marks the beginning of our freedom. And it’s a testament to the power of communication. How did such a revolution begin? How they always begin: with words, of course.
This paradigm shifting, revolution-inciting Declaration started like this:
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
I love that scene in National Treasure when Nicolas Cage says, “People don’t talk like that anymore.”
I wish they would.
It’s time to reclaim the revolutionary power of words.
If there’s change you want to see in the world, it’s time to speak up. As we do, let’s remember a few things.
1. Words are a weapon
Whoever said “talk is cheap” is a liar.
Words are powerful, painful, awful, and amazing tools.
They can hurt, help, hinder, and heal.
But they are not cheap. They are quite expensive. Words always cost us something. Sometimes, it’s your time. Sometimes, it’s your money. Sometimes, they cost your patience and self-worth and reputation.
But words always have a price tag. So wield them well and with caution.
2. Words can change the world
They have before.
Here are some examples of how communication has changed the world:
- When Martin Luther tacked his 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenburg.
- When Gutenberg created the printing press and gave the power of thought back to the people.
- When JFK asked us what we could do for our country.
- When MLK wrote his letter from Birmingham.
- When Gandhi spoke on nonviolence.
- When Jesus gave a short speech on a hilltop.
- When Neil Armstrong took his first steps (and spoke his first words) on the moon.
Almost great movement in history started with words, with a few people who cared enough to speak up.
3. Words matter
You know this already. You have felt it, experienced it — the weight of a few powerful words spoken to you. Maybe they are an affirmation or an encouragement, maybe even a criticism. But you could not ignore the immeasurable and unmistakeable potency of words.
If you listen to your life, you can still probably recall some of those moments when you felt the brutal and beautiful sting of words:
- When the other kids called you “fat.”
- When your best friend said it wasn’t true.
- When he dumped you for no reason.
- When she said “I do.”
- When that relative called you “stupid.”
- When that teacher proved them wrong.
- When you received that letter of rejection.
- When you received that letter of acceptance.
- When your boss told you that you were fired.
- When you said, “I quit.”
- When someone told you it was “God’s will.”
- When someone else just sat with you in the silence.
Admit it. You know the impact words can have. Now, it’s time to use them.
It’s your turn now
These days, there’s no shortage of negative things to say. You could call the group you disagree with a bunch of monsters. You could use hate to destroy the very thing you hate — only to become it yourself.
Instead, try to say something worth saying. I implore you. Don’t give in to the temptation to fight back, to return an angry voice by raising your own. Don’t be another hurt person who hurts other people..
Instead, use your words for something else. Something better. Something powerful, yet still subversive.
Even better: let the words of your mouth reflect the actions of your life. Act first, speak second. But please, speak up. Say something.
If you don’t love the state of things, then say so. But do so prudently, in a way that would rival the words of those famous founding fathers and so many others who came before and after them.
Don’t be quiet
Silence has often ushered evil into the world. There is a reason why Hitler gained power so quickly. He could speak. And there is a reason why he didn’t win the war. Someone else spoke up.
Be the person who says something when no one else is. Be brave. Dare to speak and have something worth talking about. Start a revolution with your words.
Talk is not cheap. It doesn’t have to be, anyway. Talk can be valuable. Talk can be rich and worthwhile and a gift to the world. So do us all a favor and open up your mouth and speak up.
If you need some help, check out my free eBook The Writer’s Manifesto.