Two women talking outside

The Power of a Single Sentence

Tom Clancy wrote incredibly popular novels in the final decades of the 20th century, all focused on operations of the CIA, geopolitics, and the Cold War. In Debt of Honor, the first 100 pages were all about economics. While he lost a lot of readers in those pages, I was intrigued. He described international markets and the stock exchanges, noting that a single move by the Federal Reserve had ripple effects worldwide. One quarter-point change could demonstrate the power of a single decision.

A single decision is the difference between employment and unemployment, marriage and singleness, surviving a flood, or being devastated by one. We make decisions every day, but most are a function of unconscious action (changing lanes, signaling at a turn, accelerating or braking). We make countless decisions without knowing their ramifications and effects. But throughout the Scriptures, God calls upon us to exercise wisdom, discernment, discipline, and faith. “Do not live as unwise, but as wise.” “Do not be drunk with wine; instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (The Prindle translation of that is, “Be filled with the Spirit, not spirits!”)

Just as every decision has an impact, every word we use is heard through the experiential filter of the person who receives it. It’s what my first oral communication text called “decoding,” and it urged the communicator to consider what a receiver HEARS, not just what the communicator SAYS. Maybe that’s part of why God inspired James to write, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. . .” Even our decisions about our words create an impact.

If you have had experience with the damage inflicted by one undisciplined sentence, you know what I’m talking about. Words inform. Words clarify. Words encourage. And unfortunately, words WOUND. So, be “sober-minded” in how you use your words. I have found that David’s prayer in the Psalms is medicinal for me, and I offer it as a sample prayer to memorize and use. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:4)

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