“The tongue has the power of life and death” Proverbs 18:21
Ron managed the grocery store where I worked during high school. Typically, I stocked shelves from 4 a.m to 8 a.m, Monday through Thursday, and I’d arrive at midnight on Friday to put in an eight-hour shift. How I graduated with a 3.6 GPA is a mystery.
Tough guy Ron came from the old school of lion-like management, believing that intimidation increased productivity. I’m not sure if his vocabulary included any kind words, but if so, he never used them on me. Although I forgave Ron decades ago, his critical remarks haunt my memory to this day.
Why is it so easy to be negative? Why do we say hurtful things so often? We know, from firsthand experience, that sticks and stones may break our bones, but words do, in fact, also break us, and yet we say them anyhow.
I fear that in a culture that values sarcasm and devalues self-control we have become masters of cutting people to shreds with our tongue.
- We put someone else down to lift ourselves up (or so we hope).
- We believe it’s funny to leave someone speechless with our witty retort.
- We have drifted from healthy debate and constructive criticism to degrading and verbal ugliness.
How would life change if instead of pain, our words brought healing? What if we were known for “encouraging and building others up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)?
There’s a place for truth-telling if we need correction, but it is always to be truth spoken in love. The Apostle Paul wrote, “If I speak in the tonguesof men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love . . . always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” 1 Corinthians 13:1, 4-6.
So what? Now what?
Today, make a conscious effort to use encouraging words to build up those around you.
May I pray for you?
God, help us guard both our hearts and our mouths. Reveal the source of negativity in our minds, and renew our thoughts and the words that flow from them to others. Teach us to speak the language of love. In a world filled with hate and destruction, help us become beacons of light that heal. Amen.
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