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Our Words Matter

The importance of thoughtful speech

by Joanne Sincock (revised, originally published in 2005)

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To reflect on the importance of speaking kind words.

Preparation and materials

  • None required.


  1. Begin by posing the following questions and asking for a show of hands.

    - How many of you are expecting to fly in an aeroplane on holiday this summer?
    - How many of you have flown in an aeroplane at some point?

  2. Point out that at take-off and landing, it is crucial that aircrew can communicate with air traffic control. Both must speak clearly to avoid confusion and prevent accidents. While the aeroplane is flying, its aircrew are in constant communication with air traffic control – communication is vital if everything is to go smoothly and safely.

  3. Today’s assembly considers what we talk about and how it affects us and those around us. Most of us have heard the saying ‘you are what you eat’; well, it would be equally true to change it to ‘you are what you say’. What we say often indicates to others what we’re like.

    For example, if we tell lies, it shows others that we are untrustworthy. If we say one thing to one person and something different to another, it shows that we are two-faced. If we use sarcasm, it might show that we have a high opinion of ourselves.

  4. Point out that sometimes, we can find that our tongues have a life of their own and get out of control. How tempting it is to gossip!

    There is a quotation attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt: ‘Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.’

    Pause to allow time for thought.
  5. We all know how tempting it is to say things to impress other people: swearing, telling crude jokes or being unkind to someone, all so that certain people like us.

    We also know how difficult it is to control angry words at times. An anonymous quotation states: ‘I lose peace of mind when I give someone a piece of my mind.’

    Pause to allow time for thought.

  6. We all need to remember that ‘we are what we say’. Wherever we are and whoever were with, we should try to control our tongues.

    When we are tempted to use angry words, to lie, to gossip or to be sarcastic, we must try to look for the best in people. Speak kind words and give praise and encouragement instead of criticism.

Time for reflection

A verse in the Bible states: ‘Kind words bring life, but cruel words crush your spirit.’ (Proverbs 15.4)

Ask the following questions, pausing after each to allow time for thought.

- How much do we support people with our words?

Pause to allow time for thought.

- Are we encouragers or discouragers?

Pause to allow time for thought.

- Do we lift people up or do we put them down?

Pause to a
llow time for thought.

- Do we nag or do we brag?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Imagine if God held a contest and said, ‘I’m going to give you a pound for every kind word you’ve said over the last year, but I’m going to take away a pound for every critical or negative word youve said.’

Would you be rich or poor?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Dear Lord,
You know how difficult it is for us sometimes to do what is right.
Help us always to fight against the wrong.
Help us to be brave when we are afraid,
To be cheerful when we are disappointed,
To be pleasant when we feel angry.

Publication date: June 2019   (Vol.21 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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