No Need for Science: Why Words Matter

Once upon a time (really—not just in a fairy tale), there was a man named Masaru Emoto who conducted what became a famous experiment called the Water Crystal Experiment. He divided samples of water into two groups. He treated one with negativity, said nasty, ugly things to it, taped ugly words on its container, etc. The other, he treated kindly, said positive things, taped nice words on its container.

After a given amount of time, he froze the water and then took pictures of the crystals that were formed. The water to which he had spoken kindly formed beautiful crystalline structures. The samples which were abused produced malformed and uglier crystals.

One of the conclusions of the experiment was, therefore, that if water could be so influenced by words, humans (who are made mostly of water) must be as well. In other words, speaking kindly will produce positive results in the hearers. Speaking negatively will produce negative results in the hearers.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a problem with Mr. Emoto’s data. At the very least, there seems to be some divisiveness regarding whether his methodology was scientific.  

So, maybe we can’t rely on the Water Crystal Experiment after all. But, does it really matter?

Do we really need a scientific experiment to tell us that it is better to speak with kindness? Do we really have to look at ice to understand that words can destroy? Surely, we can all remember a time when positive words helped heal and negative words hurt.

I know a woman who, as a child, was told by a teacher that she would be lucky if she could ever got a job as a cashier. I know a man who, as a boy, was pulled from his class choir because he “sang like a frog.” I don’t need crystalline structures or a microscope to know that those kinds of comments hurt.

But it’s not just children that are affected. I recently heard one person comment about another, “She never says a kind word about her husband.” How sad! Negative words cut adults just as deeply. “You’re stupid. You’re fat. You’re ugly. Can’t you do anything right?” And unfortunately, too often, we also speak  those kinds of things to ourselves.

On the contrary, we probably all remember kind words that helped build us up in some way. “I love you. I’m proud of you. You can do it. You’re beautiful.” I don’t have to be a scientist to understand that those words help and heal.

But if you need an authority to stand behind it, just check out the book of Proverbs. Proverbs 16:24 tells us, “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Proverbs 18:4 says, “Wise words are like deep waters; wisdom flows from the wise like a bubbling brook.”  And Proverbs 25:18 says, “Telling lies about others is as harmful as hitting them with an ax, wounding them with a sword, or shooting them with a sharp arrow.”

Think about that imagery! Now think about how we talk to (or about) our kids, our spouses, the people with whom we work, strangers even. It is so convicting to me. We can choose to build each other up, or we can tear each other down. With the power of our words, we can make life more beautiful or ugly. Our words can wound, or our speech can spur one another on.

Words really do make a difference.