Remember the old adage, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’? My first remembrance of hearing it was from an elementary school teacher when I was crying because of what a boy on the playground had said to me. There were no broken bones or blood, so I guess I wasn’t really hurt. Right?
Wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Ever been there? Does a specific memory come to mind? Perhaps cutting words from a parent, a spouse, or even a stranger are reemerging in your brain as you read this.
Words are powerful.
By His words, God spoke everything into existence. Now, that’s powerful!
Words can build us up or tear us down, comfort or wound us.
“The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Proverbs 18:21
“Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:4
The science of modern psychology agrees with God’s wisdom. An article from Psychology Today states, “Neuroimaging in a series of experiments conducted by Naomi L. Eisenberger and others showed that the same circuitry associated with the affective component of physical pain was activated when participants felt socially excluded.”
The article goes on to say that verbal aggression literally changes the structure of a child’s developing brain. Self-criticism, depression, and anxiety are linked to the power of negative words.
How We Use Our Words is of Supreme Importance.
Jesus said in Matthew 12:36-37, “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.”
I shudder to think of the number of careless, hurtful, and just plain unnecessary words I have uttered throughout my life. The truth is, most of us have problems with what we say which is probably why the Bible has so much to say about the tongue. I read that the terms tongue, lips, mouth, and words appear over 170 times in the Bible.
You know what I’ve noticed about people who hurt others with their words? Most likely, they, too, have been a victim of some kind of verbal abuse.
Hurt people hurt people.
Have you ever found yourself dishing out what’s been given?
My friends, this is not God’s will for His followers. The way we speak to others (including ourselves) says a lot about our heart.
It is our responsibility as Christians to stop the cycle of verbal abuse. This includes using sarcasm as a guise to hurt someone or gossip wrapped in a “prayer request.” Lord, have mercy! It also includes how we use our words on social media. My goodness! I am floored by the posts and responses to tweets and posts I read … by Christians. We are accountable for our words because they matter. We must think and pray before hitting send or enter. We are Christ’s ambassadors and our words must reflect HIM.
“Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you.” Ephesians 5:4
A Controlled Tongue is a Matter of the Heart.
If we want to have better control over what comes out of our mouths, we must look inward. What we think about and what we value will be exposed by our words. Jesus says in Matthew 12:34, “For whatever is in your heart determines what you say.”
3 Ways to Speak Life
1. Ask God to help.
“Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips.” Psalm 141:3
James chapter 3: 1-12 marvels over how the tongue is a small thing and yet can be like a flame of fire—a whole world of wickedness, corrupting the whole body.
To rein in our tongues, we must surrender the reins and allow Jesus to reign.
Ask the Lord to reveal callous, evil thoughts so that they can be washed clean. By the way, this is not a one-time event. We must daily submit our tongues to the Lord.
2. Think Before You Speak.
When my husband and I were dating, he gently said to me one day, ‘You don’t need to say everything you are thinking.’ And he was correct. It takes self-control and discipline to think before we speak. It is a choice. But making the effort is well worth it.
Just as we cannot unring a bell—we cannot erase our spoken words.
“Wise people think before they act.” Proverbs 13:16
“Don’t let your mouth make you sin.” Ecclesiastes 5:6
3. Know When to Be Silent.
How does being silent translate into speaking life?
Communication is more than words.
We communicate through facial expressions, gestures, touch, eye contact, and more. Sometimes the most effective, loving thing we can do is to not say anything.
We communicate life by staying silent when: we are tempted to say something cruel. We give a hug rather than offer unsolicited advice. We allow others to speak.
There is “a time to be quiet and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7)
Since we know our words are powerful, we must allow God to use our lips for His righteousness, whether to keep them closed or to speak life.
Let’s choose to speak life!
How have words affected you? I’d love to hear your comments and/or prayer requests in the comments below.
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