Words can be wellsprings of wisdom, brilliant flashes of light opening doors to new thought and opportunity, or they can be destructive and stinging, like an arrow heading straight to the heart. The book of James has some poignant reminders about words and what we can do to tame that renegade we call the tongue.
Affirmations! We all need kind words to flourish and grow, yet how often do we either give or receive affirming comments? Let’s say you finally get up the courage to send a love note to someone very special to you. In the course of doing so, you misspell a word. When you get the hoped-for response from your romantic gesture, you can hardly wait to open it, thinking that the message will be full of sweet nuggets of love. You open the note and only find one sentence. You misspelled wonderful.
Wow! There’s an affirmation gone wrong. Or what about the kid who comes home with six grades on the report card. Five of them are A’s and in all the academic subjects. The only C is in gym, not really his strong suit. What does the parent say? “What’s up with this C in gym? Are you uncoordinated? What’s the problem? Not a word about all the A’s. A beautiful moment of affirmation is lost.
These examples may seem difficult to imagine, but the truth is we do these things all the time. We’re often more willing to point out a flaw to each other than to give an encouraging word. As adults we may remember comments that were made about us as kids, either from a grandparent, a parent, or a teacher. That comment can still need to be healed thirty years later. That’s the impact of words!
Of course words come with context, body language, tone, and other things that are difficult to communicate in writing. Some words can be dismissed because they come from a person we don’t respect or have distanced from so that we don’t let the words they speak matter any more. James puts it this way. “Ironically this same tongue can be both an instrument of blessing to our Lord and Father and a weapon that hurls curses upon others who are created in God’s own image. One mouth streams forth both blessings and curses.”
A song you may recall by Boyzone says, “It’s only words, and words are all I have, to make you mine again.” Words are important. Sometimes they are all you have and you have only one chance to say the right thing, one chance to make a difference in someone’s day. Proverbs 25:11 puts it this way. “A word aptly spoken is like apple’s of gold in settings of silver.”
Let’s honor and bless each other with our words today. Let’s lift each other up, support and strengthen each other’s dreams and plans and give the gift of loving words to those around us. What you say, matters. How you say it, matters even more. Take my word for it.