By Pam Horton
In the Bible, James 3 talks about the tongue and the words coming out of our mouths. Verse 10 says, “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so” (NKJV). James then reminds us that God has the only true wisdom. Verse 17 says, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.”
TobyMac wrote a very well-known song about our words and how we can use them. In his song “Speak Life,” one of his lyrics reminds us, “Hope can live or die.” He has even created an entire social media campaign of pictures with quotes on them, #SpeakLife.
Would you agree that what you say matters, that your words make a lasting impression? Think about it for a minute. Has someone ever said something unkind or hurtful to you, maybe in the heat of an argument? They come back later and say they are sorry, or they didn’t mean it and they were just mad at the time. Did you forget what they said? Probably not.
If we write something down and then change our minds about how it looks or sounds, we can erase it. But once words have come out of our mouth and been heard, we can’t take them back. We may wish we could, but it’s a physical impossibility.
God had a lot to say about our words. The word “word” or “words” shows up in the New King James Version of the Bible 937 times in the Old Testament and 310 times in the New Testament. That’s a lot of times! Psalm 19:14 reminds us to “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” In Matthew 12:37, Jesus tells us, “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Have you watched someone berate a child and seen that child wilt in front of your eyes? Harmful words have lasting effects—even more so if it is a typical way of speaking to them. On the other hand, if a child is praised and encouraged, they just stand tall and smile with joy. This also has lasting effects for the child.
What does that mean for us? Let’s be honest: None of us is perfect. Most of us are somewhere in the middle when using our words, perhaps not always using the filter in our head before letting the things we are thinking come out of our mouths into being. We could probably all work at using that filter more.
Even with thinking before we speak, tone of voice has a huge effect on the way the words are received. Think of a child who is being told to apologize. You can hear it, can’t you? They grumble, “Sorry,” under their breath, or maybe use a high whiny pitch. They don’t really mean it, and everybody knows that. Even as adults, our tone can convey our true feelings, like sarcasm or exasperation.
Positive communication is vital to healthy relationships. Take a minute to think before you speak. Practice it. The more you do it, the more it will become a habit. You’ll be surprised how joyful you, and those around you, will become.
“Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.”—Proverbs 16:24