Recently people in the islands of Hawaii went into a state of brief panic when every single cell phone in the state buzzed with an ominous message: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” Imagine the sudden fear. For 18 minutes, people frantically wondered if a nuclear warhead was going to explode over their heads, killing them in a fiery blast. In the end, it was a simple mistake. No incoming missile, no impending disaster. An anonymous government worker supposedly clicked the wrong link in their computer system. Instead of sending a test message to a few workers, he sent the actual threat message to everyone.
What Really Happened
The subsequent investigation uncovered the problem seems to be the test link and the actual threat link have very similar names in their computer screens, making it easy for an honest error to happen. The solution is simple: Change the wording on the government system which warns the public of potential disasters, such as hurricanes, tsunamis, and incoming ballistic missiles.
Words Have Consequences
We live in a generation that values tolerance and respect. Those of us who speak in public or write / publish have learned the potential of words to offend people and to measure the words we say carefully. Visionary Biblical leaders use words to cast vision, set goals, mobilize people, and motivate others to embrace God’s purpose. As such, leaders have a responsibility to carefully choose the words they use.
Always use words that love, never words that hate.
Always use words that include, never words that segregate.
Always use words that uplift, never words that put others down.
Always use words that align with THE WORD, never with the uncertainty of the human heart.
Always speak or write THE TRUTH.
That means we must take time and carefully think about the words we say. Someone once said,
“If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.”
That is respect for the words one has to say. Leadership is influence. As leaders of leaders, our influence will pass on to future generations. The same is true for our words. If they are careless and confusing, someone may end up using them to warn others of incoming disaster.