When I was a kid, this was a popular saying: “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” (It dates back to 1862, but I am not that old.)
But words do hurt. I recently heard a talk where the leader asked everyone to remember either words that hurt them or words that encouraged them. (Thankfully, I remembered encouraging words. But it is very easy to think of harmful words from deep in my past.) Most of the people with sad memories remembered an event from their childhoods.
Every day, we have the ability to cause devastating harm or wonderful blessing. One little phrase can cause someone to lose their job and/or make them famous. “But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire” (from James 3).
As you go through your day today, choose your words carefully, at least a few times. Think of ways you can build up the friend you share a coffee break with. Or consider a way to encourage your boss or your team member.
Everyone has different abilities to control their tongues. A dear friend of mine has a son with absolutely no filters. His inability to prevent his harmful thoughts from spilling has caused a great deal of damage. And you know people who never say anything because their filters are so strong. James also mentions in chapter 3 that “no one can tame the tongue.” He does touch on the cure – seeking wisdom from God.
I’m praying this: God, please give me wisdom as I converse with people today. Keep me from being too quick to say things that might harm – and help me to be fast to give praise.
(Paul Merrill writes here every First Friday.)