I had a wonderful reminder recently of the true power of words and their positive or negative effects on our lives. We were reading a story in my third grade classroom titled “Destiny’s Gift” about a woman who was going to lose her book store business because of the rising cost of rent. Her friend Destiny helped her raise money to save the store and make her a book about their friendship for a present. When the woman received her gift, she was very happy and replied, “Words are a powerful gift.” They sure are!
I’ve come to realize over the years the powerful effect words can have on ourselves as well as others. Our words can bring great encouragement and hope or they can be filled with hatred and pessimism. Words can act like a life-saving medicine, strengthening the weary and bringing life to our souls. But sadly, some words are like a cancer, eating away at our faith and robbing us of our joy.
The Bible has much to say about the power of words and God’s desire for us to use them wisely. Job found out firsthand how destructive words can be. Imagine going through the turmoil Job went through (Job 1:13-19, 2:7-10) only to have your own friends mock you with their harsh response. Job says to his friends, “How long will you torment me and crush me with words” (Job 19:2)? Yes, words do hurt that badly. A harsh word to someone can easily demoralize them, causing them to second guess themselves and lose hope. We all should know this because we’ve all been on the receiving end of someone’s verbal explosion, but we still use words as deadly weapons at times. The book of James says, “no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison (James 3:8).
So how are we to speak then? How should we use our words for good, to build up rather than tear down? “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4;29). Sounds simple right? It should be, but we sometimes overanalyze this verse. Some try to mold their words to the scenario rather than being gracious with their speech. Just look for ways to encourage others with your comments. If it doesn’t encourage or lovingly admonish, don’t say it.
I must confess that I’ve not always been encouraging with my words. Even when I’m not speaking directly to someone else, I can be negative at times about certain situations in my life. Others see that and are discouraged by my lack of optimism and faith. For that I am truly sorry. If we’re all honest, we all can admit we have times in our lives when we wish we could take back words that have come spilling hastily out of our mouths. We’ve all seen the results of our untimely criticism or hostility. In fact, some of your personal relationships may be suffering deeply right now due to the discouragement your words have brought. Seek forgiveness from those you have hurt and commit to using your words to bolster and rejuvenate them.
God has given us great responsibility in how we communicate with one another. Do all you can to be known as a person whose speech is seasoned with love and enthusiasm. Be the one who is a joy to speak with so you can help bring back the cheerfulness someone else may so dearly need.