Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Rachel our beloved matriarch dies shortly after Jacob foolishly swears to Laban, "Anyone with whom you find your gods shall not live (Genesis 31:32)". This should teach us about the power of words. Even though Jacob loved Rachel, this is the second record of his harsh speech to her, thus the saying 'We often hurt most the people we love most' might be true!
Rachel was certainly not guilty of idolatry while married to Jacob. The 'gods' she had stolen were family heirlooms to which she could have been entitled. Tradition also teaches that they could have been used as means of divination by Laban, and that Rachel was keeping them away from her father so he could not consult them about Jacob's whereabouts. Whatever these 'gods' were, this story should teach us about the power of words, especially under oath. Even though innocent of idolatry, Rachel dies in childbirth shortly after Jacob's foolish vow. Like toothpaste out of a tube, it could not be taken back.
I do not agree with the adage, 'Sticks and stones can hurt my bones but words can never never hurt me!' Words are real things; they can kill or they can give life. Words pronounced in anger can leave indelible scars in someone's heart. People who get hurt because of words are accused of being 'sensitive', but where does it say that it is wrong to be sensitive? The truth is that we have to be sensitive enough if we want to be attuned to God's Voice in our hearts and aware of the needs of those around us. When people have to constantly protect themselves from verbal harshness and abuse, they naturally develop a shield of protection around themselves, which in turn makes them callous and insensitive even to God's Voice. The world needs not to be a place ran by the 'law of the jungle' where only the strong survive and the weak live in fear of the strong; this reminds me of the school yard in the boarding school I was raised in. The world needs instead to be a place where the strong exerts his power in the protection of the weak.
Mathematician Edward Lorenz posited that a small change at one place in a complex system can have major effects elsewhere. In his famous example of the "Butterfly Effect”, he tells us that the beating of a butterfly’s wing in Brazil can cause a series of much greater changes in the weather, such as a cyclone hitting Japan, or a tornado touching down in Texas. In the same way, small acts, or even small words (positive or negative) can have large outcomes. Even the flickering of a candle can be seen very far when it is very dark.
With positive actions and words as small as the fluttering of a butterfly wings or the flickering of a candle we have the power to change the world. Let's do it, one good deed, and one word at a time!