Words. Where would we be without them?
If there were no words, we would have no writing. There would be no great works of literature, no poems, no letters, no dictionaries, no blogs for that matter.
If words were non-existent, we would have no speech. We would have no names for people, places, or things. There would be no conversations, audible or with sign language.
Words are important. Words are powerful. They have the ability to build up or tear down. On average, we humans speak thousands of words per day. Some people are more talkative than others, but even the most reticent among us uses words each and every day.
Some of us are like a waterfall, words rush dramatically from us. Some are like a river, words flowing continually. Others are like Old Faithful, quiet for a while then suddenly words gush out of us. And still others are much like a faucet, we turn our words off and on just when they are needed.
We speak words of love and words of hate. Words of comfort and words of anger. Words of life and words of death. Words of encouragement and words of destruction. Words of blessing and words of curse. Words can instill passion to do good or incite diabolical plans for evil.
The Bible gives us much instruction on our use of words. Some of my favorite passages about words are underlined in my study Bible and I’d like to share a few of them today.
Proverbs 12:17-19 reminds me to choose my words wisely and think before I speak – “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.”
I’ve been guilty of piercing my loved ones with reckless words of my own, and I have been the recipient of sharp sword-like words piercing my heart. Not very long ago, I witnessed someone utter a careless, flippant remark which deeply wounded a friend of mine. I felt her pain as the other person spoke insensitively and I could see in her eyes how those thoughtless utterances affected her.
I wish I could say that my tongue always speaks soothing words of healing, but I know that’s not the case. Sometimes, I let my anger, or frustration, or state of feeling unwell fuel what comes out of my mouth. And then harsh words just spew out of me.
Those critical or abrasive words I speak do nothing but cause more anger and frustration. At times like these, I need to heed this admonition from Proverbs 15:1-3: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.”
As I’ve matured both in age and spiritually, I’ve become more conscious of my words and more cautious to consider them wisely before I spout. It’s something I wished I’d learned a long time ago.
I’ve known this scripture, also found in Proverbs, for most of my life but I’ve often failed to live by this passage each and every day. “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24)
It’s Chapter 11, Page 15, in my Opportunity book. This year of opportunity (2011) is starting to wind down. But today, as I read the following passage in my guidebook for life, these words written so long ago made a huge impact on me.
“You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.” ~ Psalm 139:3-5
God knows me inside and out. He knows my heart. He knows what’s in my head. And He knows what I’m going to say before the words roll off my tongue. Ouch!
I fervently pray that I’ll be more sensitive to His urging to check my spirit and examine my words carefully before I speak because my words have power either to inflict great damage or bless another with the soothing balm of grace.
And I have the power to choose and change my words.