This is a translation of a scriptural meditation from the Russian book, “Day by Day”. Lewis connection follows:
Scripture: “The tongue is a small member, but it does a great deal” (James: 3,5)
"How much good can truly be done by one thoughtful word said at the right moment, a word which comes from a kind feeling and sublime thought. And on the other hand, how much unimaginable evil can be done by one unkind, biting word which acts like poison directed against one’s neighbor. How strictly we must watch this “small member” which is intended to only bless, spread goodness and resist evil wherever it can.
"For the most part people take too lightly what they say; how often, desiring to show their brilliance, they are ready to distort the truth and say something that can bring great harm; and since we can’t stop the effect of what has been said, which can be much greater than what we think, it spreads farther and farther, exaggerating along the way the thought which was expressed, and before we realize it, it has already stigmatized someone, perhaps unjustly.
“Let us always try to remember this and more frequently repeat in our hearts: “Set a guard over my mouth, o Lord” (Psalms: 141, 3). And at the same time, o Lord, do not let us refrain from the word which sometimes needs to be uttered in defense of truth or for support and comfort to someone who is grieving, and whom one word can often strengthen and comfort in a moment of despondency. Let us not deprive our neighbor of this support out of a false sense of shame or unwarranted timidity, and let our word “be always full of grace…so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4, 6).”
One Lewis reference about the hurtful power of words that comes to mind is Edmund’s denial in front of Lucy and the other children that he has also been to the other side of the wardrobe, indicating that Lucy was lying after all.
And as far as the comforting power of words – much of what Aslan says, usually more towards the end of the individual Chronicles. And I would be happy to hear other examples. Comforting words (and deeds) are, of course, the essence of love.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)