I’ve been extremely busy during the past month, and I have been feeling guilty about neglecting my posts. I keep feeling like I don’t have anything worthwhile to say, but this morning during my quiet time, God impressed upon me the importance of words, and I felt it was worth sharing.
Words, and the manner in which they are spoken, have been an issue in our household recently. Words have been tossed about carelessly, without thought to the effect on the hearer. This makes me sad because I know it’s not the way God wants us to interact.
You’ve probably seen those posts on Facebook about squeezing the toothpaste out of a tube and then trying to put it back in (and similar illustrations of how difficult it is to “take back” your words). Even after we’ve forgiven the one who wounded us with their words, it can still affect our relationship with that person in the future, sneaking in and coloring the way we view our interactions.
Proverbs 16:24 tells us, “Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.”
Also in Proverbs, we learn that “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.” (Proverbs 18:21 MSG)
I love the illustration of words being honey, but that second verse really drives the point home to me. Not only are our kind words like honey or fruit (and who doesn’t like the delicious sweetness of berries or honey!), but our unkind, thoughtless words are like poison. And poison doesn’t always affect its victim immediately. Sometimes (especially in tiny amounts) it lurks beneath the surface, damaging organs until the body eventually stops functioning properly and shuts down.
In the same way, when we choose words that are not loving or sweet, words that do not build others up, they do their dirty work slowly, in secret, damaging another’s heart. When we speak words that blame others, words that criticize or tease, words that point out the failures of others or that imply disappointment in another’s decisions or character, those words cut deep. And simply apologizing may smooth things over on the surface, but it doesn’t erase the impact of those words on a human heart.
And notice Solomon’s choice of words in that verse above – “you choose.” That puts the responsibility of our word choices squarely on our shoulders, where it belongs! You choose whether you will speak life or poison. The choice is yours.
“Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.” (Proverbs 12:18 NLT)
Do you want your words to cut and poison others, or heal them?
The question is, how do we become wise so we can choose words which produce healing rather than poison?
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (James 1:19 NLT, emphasis mine)
I find that reading and remembering this verse on a daily basis is a tremendous help to me. Sometimes my words are careless and thoughtless, or snapped impatiently, simply because I’m in a hurry. But if I make a conscious effort to listen first and think before I answer, I tend to say fewer things I regret later.
“Lord, cleanse me from hidden faults, keep me from deliberate sins. May my words and thoughts be pleasing to you, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:12 & 14, emphasis mine)
If we begin with our thought life and clean it up, make it pleasing to God, then our words will follow naturally. It’s difficult to say unkind, thoughtless and disrespectful words when our thoughts are fixed on what the Lord wants; when our hearts are focused on the amazing truth that our Father saved us, although we didn’t deserve it – we have just as many flaws and make equally as many mistakes as the next guy (probably more!).
I challenge you to make a conscious effort this week to be quick to listen and slow to speak, to choose your words carefully before you speak. Choose to speak life!
Loving Father, you are so holy and so good! You love me, even though I don’t deserve it. Please forgive me for speaking unkind and thoughtless words, and for speaking in a disrespectful manner. I want my words to be honey. I want them to be sweet, like fruit, and to build others up. Please remind me today to listen first and to choose my words carefully. Show me how to make my thoughts and my words pleasing to you, my Rock and my Redeemer. I want to speak life to everyone I have occasion to converse with today. Thank you for your constant care and perfect provision, and for the amazing gift of salvation!