If I asked you to describe words with pictures, what would you use?
Personally, I think of either hearts or bullets. Words have the power to heal and show that we care about people. Conversely, they can also wound and destroy people. Words are how we communicate, whether it be through writing on paper or an electronic device or face‐to‐face.
Everyday, we talk with many people. During our interaction with those people, we have to make the choice to speak words of kindness and love that will build them up or words that will come from anger and hurt the other person. We use words to do everything from writing our feelings in our journal to giving a speech in public. We use them for personal matters as well as for school.
The power of my words is something that God has been working with me on. I tend to be naturally very outspoken. When I am angry or someone says something to me that ruffles my feathers, my first instinct is simply just say whatever comes to my tongue first. But is that really the right reaction?
The Bible instructs us how to react when someone says something that irritates us. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). When I get mad, I’ve found the worst thing I can do is respond immediately. A quote that I often think of is, “Don’t do something permanently stupid because you’re temporarily upset.” (anonymous)
We never know what will happen when we say something. It may produce a negative reaction because of a misunderstanding. Often, when I’m angry I remind myself that answering softly after praying and waiting to respond is far wiser than responding right away. Most of the time, by doing this I’m able to get my differences sorted out in a very kind and loving way.
How does God want us to use our words? Psalm 15 talks about the character that we need to have in order to live with the Lord. The Psalm begins with the questions, “LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?” Psalms 15:3 answers specifically about the tongue, “He who does not backbite with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend;”
In Proverbs 15:2 it says, “The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.” Right there in Proverbs the Bible tells us that words must be used wisely, not foolishly and loosely.
I was in a situation with a teacher who was incredibly critical. Every time I met with her, she completely shredded me and all of my work. Often I would get incredibly upset and there were a few times where I dissolved into tears both in front of her and most often after she left, but I never said anything to her. Why didn’t I defend myself? If I had responded immediately I would’ve been using my words foolishly by speaking in anger. Instead, I had my cry and spilled my words of anger and hurt out to God and my parents. My parents gave me words of wisdom for how to respond to the criticism and God helped me be able to answer my teacher with the respect that she deserved when I saw her next. Because I learned how to hold my tongue then, I am able to have a good working relationship with her as we now work together.
“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14) We must seek to encourage and build one another up in the faith. Our words must be ones of cheer and comfort for those who need it, but for those who require correction we must give it in a loving manner.
2 Timothy 4:2 says, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” We are called to preach, convince, and rebuke. We must speak the truth in love. However the Bible adds the disclaimer that we need to do it in a way that seeks to teach others and do it in a patient manner. I know how hard it is to keep your mouth shut when all you want to do is set the person straight.
If we can’t speak the truth in love, what good are we doing? We’re just going to hurt them, ourselves, and our relationship with them. We will not have an effective witness to the world if we’re not showing Christ to the world in our words and actions.
The greatest things that we will use our words for is to witness to fulfill the command given in Matthew 28:18‐19. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.”
We must seek to be able to respond to hostile people with words of love and grace so that people can be won by both our words and conduct. If we can’t tame our tongues in ordinary speech, how will we react when confronted by someone who is very adverse to the Gospel and gets in our faces about it?
Something else I do when I’m upset by what someone says is I listen to music that calms me down by reminding me about the power of my words and what a devastating effect they can have on others.
Today let’s focus on building each other up with our words and seeking to proclaim God’s truth and love in a way like Christ did. Even when being tormented, He spoke with love and on the cross prayed, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34a) If Christ could show love even while He died for those who tormented and killed him, then we can do the same by God’s grace.
Here are the links as promised:
Little Toy Guns by Carrie Underwood: For me this a powerful reminder of the damage that words can have not just on the person I’m speaking to, but on others around me.
Words by Hawk Nelson (featuring Bart Miller from Mercy Me): This song describes what words do to us and other emotionally. The chorus is a powerful prayer of my own heart that asks God to use my words to point the world to Him.
What Are Words (Original one by Chris Medina, reprised by Jon Schmidt, Peter and Evynne Hollens): This song was a reprise done by the Piano Guys. It tells the story of Chris Medina and his fiancee who suffered a brain injury and he wrote it as he stood by her side through the healing process. I included this one because it talks very specifically about how when we speak our words we really need to mean what we say and that when we say them out loud we then have witnesses to hold us to our word.