The Power of Words: Talking and Listening


When God created Adam and Eve in His image, the imago Dei (the image of God), the idea was, according to theologian Louis Berkhof, that “God was the original of which man was made a copy. This means, of course, that man not only bears the image of God, but is His very image.” While various schools of thought have sought to conclusively define what the divine image in man is, Carl F.H. Henry cautioned that “the Bible does not define for us the precise content of the original imago.” It is clear, however, that created man was “constituted a personal being in self-conscious spiritual fellowship with his Maker.” Henry also notes that Adam’s “created dignity consisted in knowledgeable and responsible relationships to the supernatural world and to fellow humans (emphasis added).” Man, therefore, as the apex of creation, has been designed to know and communicate with God and with other image-bearers as well.

In her book, Peoplemaking, noted scholar, therapist, and author, Virginia Satir (1916-1988) invited us to look through her eyes: “I see communication as a huge umbrella that covers and affects all that goes on between human beings. Once a human being has arrived on this earth, communication is the largest single factor determining what kinds of relationships he makes with others and what happens to him in the world about him.” Nowhere is this truth more obvious than in the pages of the Bible. The self-revealing God used words by which to communicate with us and has given specific commands, precepts, and laws regulating how we use our tongue (words) and our ears (listening). James told his readers that “no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness (image) of God” (James 3:8-9).

As we will see in this series, the words we speak are complex, meaningful sounds that originate in the heart, proceed to our tongues, leap into listening ears, and produce powerful effects in the hearts of those who hear. Words have power; they can build up or tear down. Then, on the other end of the communication spectrum are those who are not engaging in active listening. Author Paul Swets maintains that “the great majority of people suffer the loneliness of not being able to share their true inner selves with persons who will hear them out and take time to understand.” “Why do so few people listen?” he asks.

In this brief study, our purpose is to learn to honor God in the various ways we talk and listen, to forgive the hurts we received from the words and indifference of others, to learn how to be open to others and trust again, to learn how to appropriately know the heart of another person, and to take the risk of looking inside ourselves to address the internal issues which have remained hidden from everyone around us – including those closest to us.


Click on the chapters below to download.

The Power of Words, Talking and Listening, Part 1: The Formation and Use of Words.

The Power of Words, Talking and Listening, Part 2: Healthy Words.

The Power of Words, Talking and Listening, Part 3: The Relationship Between Our Hearts and Our Words (a).

The Power of Words, Talking and Listening, Part 4: The Relationship Between Our Hearts and Our Words (b).

The Power of Words, Talking and Listening, Part 5: Descending into the Well.

The Power of Words, Talking and Listening, Part 6: Assessing the Need, Speaking with Wisdom.

Selected Bibliography

Allender, Dan B., and Longman, Tremper III. Bold Love. Colorado Springs, CO. 1992.

Benner, David G. Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship & Direction. Downers Gove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 2002.

               . Healing Emotional Wounds. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House. 1990.

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Book One: The Knowledge of God and of Ourselves Mutually Connected. Florida: MacDonald Publishing Company. N/A.

Crabb, Larry. Connecting: Healing for Ourselves and Our Relationships. Nashville, TN: Word Publishing. 1997.

               . Inside Out. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress. 2007.

               . Soul Talk: The Language God Longs For Us To Speak. Brentwood, TN: Integrity Publishers. 2003.

R.T. Kendall. Controlling the Tongue: Mastering the What, When, & Why of the Words You Speak. Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House. 2007.

McEntyre, Marilyn Chandler. Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 2009.

Miller, Sherod; Miller, Phyllis A.; Nunnally, Elam W.; and Wackman, Daniel B. Talking and Listening Together. Littleton, CO: Interpersonal Communication Programs, Inc. 1991.

Montague, Ashley. The Anatomy of Swearing. New York, NY: Collier Books. 1967.

Satir, Virginia. Peoplemaking. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books, Inc. 1972.

Swets, Paul W. The Art of Talking So That People Will Listen. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1983.

Tournier, Paul. Joe Embry trans. Secrets. Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press. 1976.

               . To Understand Each Other. Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press, 1981.

Tripp, Paul David. Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change, Helping People in Need of Change. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing. 2002.