Do you realize you possess the power of life and death?
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21) Each of us can breathe life into a relationship, or we can sentence it to death by simply choosing hurtful words. Words spoken to us, shape us. If we’ve inhaled a flurry of positive words, we have the desire to exhale them in return. However, when we choke on negative words, we sometimes spit out venomous ones in response. Words are powerful, and whether we like to admit it or not, they can be forgiven and still remembered.
After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Franklin Roosevelt’s well-known words declared outrage at the attack, and his words have lived in infamy: “Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”
Martin Luther King advanced the idea of racial equality with four memorable words: “I have a dream!”
Neil Armstrong thought long and hard about the words he would utter as he became the first man to set foot on the moon. I sat in front of the TV, cross-legged in the floor, at my grandparents’ home waiting for that historic moment. The words he chose were few, but profound enough to be learned by every school child since. “That’s one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”
If you’re old enough, I’m sure Alan Jackson’s thought-provoking question continues to ring in your ears whenever you hear the song he wrote after September 11, 2001 – “Where were you when the world stopped turning?”
Yes, words are powerful.
Some words we speak blow away with the slightest breeze, while others stick to another’s soul like wet leaves on a windshield. It’s sometimes hard to know ahead of time which ones will fly away and which ones will stick. If we maintain a tender conscience, we feel the regret of unkind words as soon as they leave our mouths or the send button is pressed. We realize we’ve said things to get some kind, any kind of response, or we want to vent pent-up frustrations, or we’re just plain stressed to our limit. Occasionally, it’s all three. Whether we are wise or foolish with our words, every word we speak reveals the content of our hearts. (Luke 6:45)
Perhaps, we can all take some measure of comfort in knowing that none of us are capable of controlling our tongues all the time. James 3:8 reminds us that “No one can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” We all mess up, and we all need forgiveness.
God spoke the earth and life into existence. Satan spoke sin and death into the world. We have the choice to either speak life or death to our family, friends, neighbors, strangers, political opponents, and fellow believers. Let’s choose life!
When hurtful words threaten your sense of worth, remember who God created you to be. Speak good things to yourself. Remember, hurt people hurt people. Keep in mind that none of us truly knows what’s going on in another person’s life. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Try seeing things from their perspective. Find new words to bless and affirm them. Be generous with your compliments. Think more about what they need rather than what you need.
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:16-18)
Today, makes the third time this week I’ve been led to discuss “words”. Do you think God might be trying to tell me something? Frankly, I’ve struggled with this post. I know my words are becoming gentler, but they still have a long way to go. It’s not so much what I say these days, but how I say it. I’m trusting the Spirit will speak more life into my heart. Thankfully, a friend of mine recently reminded me, “We live and learn until we see Jesus.” I’m counting on that!
Let’s all speak life today and see what happens!