The power of words

I have always loved sayings and words of wisdom and enjoy reading these on the bottom of the desk calendars where you turn a new page each day. Just recently, I came across a folder divider from high school onto which I had stuck quotes that I had cut out from these. It brought back memories of sitting reading these instead of listening to the teacher or doing homework! Over the years I have created many sayings of my own including “there's no such thing anymore as common sense instead, I call it uncommon sense!”

This week's reading of Proverbs is like a desk calendar with one wise saying after another. They seem totally disconnected but several themes emerge, one of which is the blessing of having a sensible, non-nagging wife! I’m not going there! You’ll have to check with my husband on that one! Another theme which is relevant to all of us, is the power of words. The words of the mouth are deep waters (Proverbs 18:4).

These chapters warn us of the outcomes of words full of lies, deceit and arrogance, and of the wisdom in avoiding those who quarrel, gossip or are foolish or hot-tempered. I know I can relate to some of these at times and you may too. On the reverse side, these Proverbs expound the power and good that comes with wise use of the tongue - a man of knowledge uses words with restraint (17: 27); those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity (21:23); the tongue has the power of life and death (18:21). If you want some more wise words on taming the tongue, read James 3.

I’ve had many arguments with my husband, kids and parents when I have said things that I have deeply regretted and know have cut to the core. I don’t set out to intentionally hurt them; generally these words come when I’m tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, sad, stressed or hurt. I know that when I have been the recipient of harsh words, that the pain goes deeper and lasts longer than any physical wound.

We all know the saying “sticks and stones can break my bones but names will never hurt me". In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Broken bones will heal but words can cripple us. They can turn a competent, confident person into a self-doubting, self-hating person with no self-esteem. And where can words of hatred take us – to the horrible events such as in Christchurch last week. What should we do when we have been hurt by someone’s words – we forgive, just as Jesus calls us to in Matthew 6:14,15.

Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing (James 3:10). How are you going to use your words today; to build people up or ……

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