Words. We use them every day; they’re about as common to our lives as breathing and yet most of the time we’re oblivious to their power. Words have the power to bring joy, to comfort, to offer life and hope yet they also have the power to hurt, to wound and scar, to propagate devastation and death. Some people choose to use their words to hurt others; they “sharpen their tongue like a sword, and aim their arrows, deadly words”. (Psalm 64:3) Some speak without thinking and regret it forever; some may never know the damage they caused. Others use their words for good, to bring peace and joy, light and life into other people’s lives. The Bible recognizes the value of a well-spoken word. Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” So why is it that we choose to use our words as deadly arrows instead of apples of gold?
“So the tongue is also a little member, and boasts great things. See how a small fire can spread to a large forest! …nobody can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the image of God. Out of the same mouth comes blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:5 & 8-10)
So why is it we choose to hurt other people with our words? Sometimes it’s just anger, but a lot of the time I think it’s because, by putting other people down, we try to bolster other peoples’ and our own opinions of ourselves. However, that’s not the way it should be.
Today’s society is full of ways to communicate without even opening your mouth—texting, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat—yet the words and ideas that we express through these channels can be just as damaging. In fact, from the shelter of a computer screen, many people say things that they wouldn’t dare to in person—things of hate and things that hurt. Sometimes this can push the receiver of these hurtful words to do something terrible like ending their own life. The person or people who said the hurtful words can’t justifiably be held legally responsible for this since the act was solely the individual’s choice. However, they do carry a moral guilt and responsibility for the part that they played.
This “social menacing” has become like a poison seeping into our society, but how do we fix it?
Before you speak–or type–ask yourself these questions:
- Would I say this to someone’s face?
- Would I want someone to say this to me?
- What purpose does it serve? Is it harmful or just to puff up myself?
If the answer to the last one is yes, think twice about saying it at all.
“A fool vents all of his anger, but a wise man brings himself under control.” (Proverbs 29:11)
“In the multitude of words there is no lack of disobedience, but he who restrains his lips does wisely.” (Proverbs 10:19)
“I tell you that every idle word that men speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37)
Apples of Gold
“Joy comes to a man with the reply of his mouth. How good is a word at the right time!” (Proverbs 15:23)
“A word fitly spoken” can do as much good as a cruel or reckless one can cause damage.
With our words we hold tremendous power. With our words we can offer others comfort, hope, and joy. With our words we can change lives, change the world. With our words let us not break down but build up, let us not spread death and darkness but offer love and life, let us not use them for evil but to make an impact for good in the world.
Sometimes we may say things that we regret and we can’t ever take it back, but what we can do is resolve to do better in the future, we can ask the Lord to forgive us and help us do better, and we can be glad that the Lord is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in loving kindness.” (Psalm 103:8)
As we go about our daily lives, let us remember the power of our words and pray that Psalm 19:14 become manifested in our lives: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, Yahweh, my rock, and my redeemer.”