[Picture: Henry J. Collins]
Have been thinking about the power of words. It is so true – our words have the ability to tear down as well as build up. To drive away as well as reconcile & build bridges. To confuse as well as to illuminate. To discourage as well as revive.
Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. – Ps 34:13
I said, “I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue;… – Ps 39:1
Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue. What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue? – Ps 120:2-3
The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver. – Prov 10:20
The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom, – Prov 10:31
But the tongue of the wise brings healing. – Prov 12:18
A soothing tongue is a tree of life, But perversion in it crushes the spirit. – Prov 15:4
Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. – James 3:1-12
In a short span of time, I’ve been at both the receiving and giving ends of powerful words. Separate encounters that triggered very different reactions in me. Had to stop and examine if I was falling into the trap of being defined by what other people say. Again. If I was saying certain things because I wanted to be perceived in particular ways. Whether I know how to test what they say, whether seemingly good or bad, by the truth of God’s Word. Whether what was said, was in a spirit of carelessness, meanness, appreciation, love, flattery, humility, brokenness… and whether I responded in ways that God would have been pleased with.
No easy answers, but I’ve learnt over time that asking the right questions are equally, if not more, important.
As I mulled over words that were life-depleting and saddened me, I’m thankful to God for leading me back to a truth: that I am whole and righteous not by anything I can ever do, be or get in my own strength. Instead, I can stand with my face lifted because He is ‘The Lord our Righteousness’ (Jer 23:6). As I reflected on words that were life-giving and touched me, I’m thankful to God for using these persons to remind me that while I’m still far from what He intends for me to be, I have come some way too – and that is worth celebrating 🙂
Nothing a Swiss Army knife can’t do…
Our hands-down favourite item: Golden Egg Yolk Lava Bun
My conversation with The Guru was a life-giving (and delicious!) one. Sure, we talked about many ideas, and people we know and respect. And there were more than enough silly jokes, jibes and colourful stories about places we’ve been and things we’ve learnt since we last met 2 years ago. But the best words were about things that were not articulated, nuances that one could only detect in a face to face meetup such as this one… statements made with appreciation and questions asked with care.
“You have become softer… it shows. On your face, in your countenance…”
“… interesting. Why did your wall come straight down after I said that?”
“You have a choice.”
In many (tangential) ways, talking with The Guru reminded me that it wasn’t too long ago that I started learning to like and enjoy being myself better. And that it is a daily challenge to walk the fine balance between poor self-image and arrogance. Ah, but self-talk – the words we say to ourselves – is another topic altogether, crying for the right questions…