"The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgement." - Proverbs 10:21 (NIV)
My youngest son got into a fight a few weeks ago because someone called his best friend's fiance a couple of names not worth repeating. They were celebrating her 21st birthday, alcohol was involved and instead of ignoring the person who was doing the name calling, knowing he was just trying to start a fight, the best friend insisted on an apology. More words went back and forth and then fists started flying. My son jumped in because he felt it wasn't a fair fight and ended up with two broken ribs. A few days later, after a trip to the ER because he was in a lot of pain, he and I had a conversation. Basically, my position was that the name calling, the words, weren't worth starting a fight over. I fell back on that old saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.". And I believe, in this case, that saying to be correct.
However, that's not always true. Words CAN hurt. Maybe not physically, but certainly emotionally. And, sometimes, that can be worse than physical abuse. Physically, the bruises will go away and the broken bones will heal. Emotionally, those wounds can stay open and bleeding the rest of our lives.
I was never physically abused when I was a kid. Oh sure, I got spanked when I got out of line, but I don't consider that abuse because it wasn't overboard. But, there was emotional abuse. I don't believe my parents did it on purpose. I just don't think they realized the power of their words. I remember being called a moron when the house wasn't cleaned just so or something wasn't done to their expectations. I was a chubby kid so I had several "fat" nicknames that were used instead of my given name. There are a lot of times when I don't remember what was said but I certainly remember how it was said - loudly, sarcastically, angrily. Fortunately, as an adult, God enabled me to let it go, to forgive and move on. I had enough other people in my life that encouraged me and lifted me up and made me feel loved.
Which brings me to my next point: words can also heal. There are so many people that are scared, hurting, discouraged, tired. One word of kindness, of encouragement, may be all they need to keep on going, to take the next step, to find the strength to move forward, to renew their hope. It may be all they need to turn their life around. Think of how you feel when someone encourages you, lifts you up, makes you laugh when you least feel like laughing. It can make all the difference in the world, can't it?
That is what God is telling us here in Proverbs. Watch what we say and how we say it. I'll be the first to admit my words, and how I say them, aren't always kind, encouraging, wise or uplifting, especially when I'm angry or irritated. God is working in me about that. James 1:19 is one of my memory verses and reminds me that I "should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." In other words, think before I speak. If I claim to be a child of God, which I do, then He intends for me to lift others up, not tear them down. No matter how I'm feeling at the time!! When I remember that words CAN hurt, when I'm careful of what I say, when I follow God's Word and speak with kindness, wisdom and truth, not only may I be lifting someone up but I am also showing them Christ and His love for them. And that's the best emotional healing there is!!
Dear God, make me aware of my words, not only what I say but also how I say them. I want to be a source of encouragement to others, Lord, not the source that tears them down. Help me to remember that, as a Christian, my words are to be a reflection of Your love and bring honor to You. I pray this in Jesus' name, Amen."A good word costs as little as a bad one, and is worth more." - Benjamin Whichcote