We have all heard the children’s response, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.” Unfortunately, we know that is not true. Words can be very harmful…and we often use them to hurt others.
When we decide to speak to someone else, we can be helpful or harmful. We may intend to be helpful and yet be harmful. Our intentions may not always translate into the words we would like. Our words can be misinterpreted.
There are times when we find ourselves reacting quickly without thinking. We respond to someone with hurtful words because they hurt us. It is a normal human reaction. But we are called to be better than that. We are called to respond in love rather than anger. It isn’t easy and it takes time training ourselves through conscious thought to change our behavior.
We may take time to think through our words prior to an upcoming discussion, when we know there is a meeting scheduled ahead of time or we purposely plan to discuss something with someone else. But do we think about how the other person is going to respond? This can be a very important step to take if we believe the topic is touchy or controversial. Our words can make the situation harder for the other person to grasp the seriousness of the situation or cause them to respond defensively.
Often, I find myself more apt to be biased and have staunch opinions about a particular topic than I should. Based on my observances of others, I can see most of us are the same. We have our preferences and aren’t willing to compromise with someone else. This type of behavior is what leads us to separation and, in the case of countries, to war.
We can correct our behavior. We can train ourselves to be less combative over preferences. Sometimes, we are better off to simply be quiet. I’m reminded of something my Grandma used to say, “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.” That’s a good start, but we need to go further than that. The words we speak should be words of healing and love. That’s not to say there aren’t times when there is no room for bending, but those times are few and far between when compared with the shear amount of interaction we have with others each day.
In order to be the light of Jesus to those we encounter, we need to speak the words of Jesus. Our mindset must be in sync with His. We are called to not only know about Him, but to know intimately who He is and speak as He would speak.
I pray we all make a conscious decision to work on our interactions with others. I pray we decide to speak words of that uplift one another. I pray each of us seeks to speak as Jesus would speak. Make your words positive. Speak words of encouragement. Speak words of love. Know the difference between rules and preferences. Learn to compromise where possible.
The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.