Let’s explore the power of actions and the power of words.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. Proverbs 18:21
While I was writing my latest book, The Civil Pirate, to be released March 2018, I learned as much as I could of a language that, until I started researching the novel, I had no idea existed.
I learned words like buckra, dayclean, trutemout, and eish tettuhs. Here’s a word in Gullah you may be familiar with: Kumbaya. All of you probably know what that means. The other words may as well have been Greek–I couldn’t figure out what they were! But once I learned, I was amazed.
This language came about as a mix of West African languages mixed with English. The enslaved peoples of America’s East Coast, from southern North Carolina all the way to Northern Florida, established this language as a way to communicate where their slave owners couldn’t understand them.
Buckra means slave owner.
Dayclean means just as dawn is beginning, the time when most enslaved people were expected to be out in the field or serving in the house.
Trutemout is a wonderful word meaning someone who will not lie. Think Truth+Mouth.
Eish tettuhs was something enslaved people grew and often ate: Irish potatoes.
The people of this region would speak to one another in this language so those who enslaved them wouldn’t understand the language, and wouldn’t whip them if they spoke of freedom.
The book I wrote was about a man named Robert Smalls who not only escaped from slavery, he did so at the height of the Civil War, in 1862, from Charleston, SC, the place where the Civil War began. And he not only brought himself to freedom, he brought his wife, his three children, and seven friends with their families with him! In all, Robert Smalls led fifteen people out of slavery with one daring act!
Smalls and his fellow crewmembers planned this escape for months. They likely employed Gullah so that no one would suspect they were trying to escape. They prayed both before and during this dangerous escape. They took the steamboat they had been crewmembers of and steered it straight for the Union Blockade that was just outside of Charleston Harbor.
Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.1 Samuel 2:3
The admiral who welcomed them aboard told the newspapers that it was the most gallant and brave act of the Civil War up to that point. This action was powerful, so powerful, in fact, that it caught the attention of Abraham Lincoln. When Lincoln had a meeting three months later to determine if he would release the black troops into the war, the president invited Smalls to attend. Smalls’ action spoke louder than anyone’s arguments to date.
While Smalls was there, Lincoln asked him what motivated him to risk so much. Smalls answered with one word: “Freedom.”
This word had its powerful impact because of the powerful action that accompanied it. Smalls was 23 when this happened.
I used to wonder why my words didn’t have the effect I wanted them to have. I learned, partly through writing this book, that it’s not only the words I write and speak, it’s the actions I choose. Actions are birthed in thought. I had to have a good look at my motivations. What was it that I really wanted? Fame? Recognition? Or something outside of myself?
Smalls wanted freedom not only for himself but for all his people.
I not only learned a new language, I learned the power of words, and how words derive their power from our actions.
Aside from Jesus who inspires us all, whose words and actions have inspired you? What has God shown you about the correlation between words and actions?