Searching For God In Religion: Day 6 of 6


The Power Of The Tongue

-Susan Cottrell

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Proverbs 18:21.

Another suicide. Another lesbian hanging in her closet, another trans boy stepped in front of a bus, another bisexual with an overdose. All thinking they are so horrible even God couldn’t love them. What a tragic loss. In my work to reconcile families and help heal a badly wounded community, I see far too many of these occurrences—it’s enough to break your heart.

These people were not born into self-loathing; they were conditioned into it. They were told they were an abomination, told God hates them, told they deserve hell. No one is born hating themselves, even if they can’t remember a time when they didn’t. (Heteronormative conditioning—and othering—starts early.)

That’s the staggering power of the tongue. That’s the power blow we deliver with our words—even when we don’t know what we’re talking about. Death by a thousand microaggressions.

On the other hand, Life! Encouragement! Hope! These likewise lie in the power of the tongue! That’s the breath of creation we deliver with our words—even when it’s a casual and easy remark we offer to someone in passing. Life by a handful of random kindnesses.

Bitter is the rotten fruit of deadly unkindness and casting people out. But sweet and sustaining is the ripened fruit of loving-kindness and bringing people in.

You have the power to love people to life—including you—by your very words. It is sweet fruit indeed.


Susan Cottrell is the prominent voice for faith parents of LGBTQI children. She is an international speaker, author and spiritual director. Through her nonprofit organization—FreedHearts—Susan champions the LGBTQI community and families with her characteristic tender-heartedness, and she zealously challenges Christians who reject them with her wise insistence that love—of God and others—is the foundation of faith. She spent 25 years in the non-affirming Evangelical church, is the Founder and President of FreedHearts, has a Master of Arts in Theological Studies, served as the Vice-President of PFLAG Austin (Texas), and was featured on ABC's 20/20, Nightline and Good Morning America. Her books “Mom, I’m Gay”—Loving Your LGBTQ Child and Strengthening Your Faith (published by Westminster John Knox Press), and True Colors - Celebrating the Truth and Beauty of the Real You, have been endorsed by The Human Rights Campaign, PFLAG, The Gay Christian Network and many others. She and her husband Rob have been married for 30 years, have five children, two of whom are in the LGBTQI community, and live in Austin, Texas.