Have you noticed the words spoken lately:
Opinionated, accusatory, hostile, emotional, degrading, untruthful, unkind, and self-serving words.
They are usually spoken without much thought given to the power they have to influence others; for good or bad.
I’m not questioning one’s motive.
Honestly, I think most people mean well. However, I am aware of how powerful — and insensitive — words can be; especially when people are passionate about issues.
When emotions ignite our speech, we give birth to reckless words. Proverbs 12:18-19 reminds us:
“Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.”
There have been too many occasions in my life when I was quick to speak and later regretted it. My desire was not to harm others. But, despite my intent, my unchecked speech expressed emotionally, lacerated people on the receiving end of my words. My apologies (while necessary) did not negate the wounds inflicted.
Reckless words are harmful. They pierce others like a sword!
However, the tongue of the wise brings healing. “A gentle tongue is a tree of life” (Proverbs 15:4a).
A wise tongue carefully selects words to encourage dialogue, understanding, and respect. It insists on language that demonstrates appreciation and kindness and requires facts to be known before it speaks.
We’ve witnessed too many instances recently where people’s characters have been maligned because we rushed to speak without verifying facts. There has been too much speech incited by emotion and driven by self-serving interest, and our words are slicing others like swords.
When I listen to the voices in our world today (politicians, clergy, activists, Christians, non-Christians, or media analysts), how fruitful would it be if we were to check our words before we speak? Not only for accuracy but to intentionally infuse kind words that will encourage healing.
James advises his readers: “…let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). Although we live in a different time than when James wrote those words, they are equally timely for us today.
And, I think he was wise in the order given: “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”
There are days that I become annoyed, frustrated, and fearful of the words spoken in our society. But I’m reminded: Each of us is a leader. We influence people. For good or bad.
A corner office in an executive wing of a building does not make one a leader. It’s just an office. Bussing dishes in a restaurant does not mean you are not a leader. It’s an honorable job.
It’s your life — my life: Our character, words, and actions that influence people.
While we can’t be responsible for the words that come out of the mouths of others, we are accountable for our words. May our words be healing, — not reckless!