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
I am sure all of us can remember hurtful words that were said to us when we were young. They are embedded deep in our hearts. They may have been comments made by our parents, teachers, coaches, friends, or others around us, but we can’t deny the effect that they had on our lives – especially if we remember them all these years later! If we could only remember what an impact our own words can have!
So many times in the last few weeks, I have overheard parents speaking to their children in the most demeaning, harsh way. It’s not as if they are disciplining them or trying to teach them an important lesson. The child may have asked a simple question and the parent replied in the most unkind way. Many times I saw the sadness and confusion in a child’s eyes, and it made me want to stop the parent and say, “If you only knew how you sound and how it hurts your child. Take a deep breath and do it again – this time with a little more kindness!”
I did it with my own kids, but how I wish I could take those words back. How I wish I could have used a little more restraint, humor, and love in my conversations with them. They deserved better, and we don’t get the chance to do it over again!
We all “snap” at each other from time to time as we take out our frustrations on those around us. We do it with our spouses, with other family members, with our co-workers, and with individuals we don’t even know. Yet, no matter how busy or burdened we are, we need to remember the effect our words can have.
I recently saw a bumper sticker that read “Free speech is not an option with God.” How true those words are! We don’t have the right to speak freely to others and abuse them with our words. Sarcasm, harshness, ridicule, and blame are not ways God desires us to speak to each other. As this verse so aptly reminds us, “Our words should benefit those who hear them.”
Our hearts and our words can be such a wellspring of love, encouragement, and a sense of worth for others. Our words should reflect God’s grace to each other and bring encouragement and healing, not pain or embarrassment. We need to be deliberate in what we say, think before we speak, and concentrate on the tone in which we use. And if we can’t control our words, we need to ask God to help us – to give us words to lift others up – not to tear them down.
In Proverbs once again, we find much wisdom with this verse: “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” May we give life and love to those around us.
Dear God, we often forget the power our words can have on others. Help us to speak with restraint, kindness, and love as we try to lift others up and may we be a blessing in their lives. Amen