A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.
The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.
The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:1-4
As I sat in an oatmeal bath itching like crazy, I made my peace and wanted to die. Meeting my maker and not having to deal with the sunburn to end all sunburns felt like a win-win. A bit of backstory: years back, I made the mistake of not putting suntan lotion on while visiting a waterpark during the summer I spent in California. Being an East Coaster who knew how to handle the humidity, I foolishly believed that the cool breeze and dry heat meant those pesky rays wouldn't bother me.
Boy, was I wrong. Everything stung, tingled, and ached. I was miserable. No matter how I laid, I couldn't get comfortable. The constant heat radiating from my body reminded me time and time again of the wounds my foolish behavior caused.
Our words sting just as much. We can all think of a time when someone spoke harshly to us. Those words, spoken long ago, influenced the way we perceived ourselves - our worth, our identity, and our purpose. They crushed our spirit.
Those words opened up painful wounds. Wounds so sore that some might still be healing. As a result, we're not comfortable in our skin because they are influencing who we are today. Only God's forgiveness can soothe those hurts.
The same holds true for our words. The words we speak have serious implications. Our words may be small, but they hold incredible power and weight. Words are a powerful tool that can be used for good as well as to harm. The only thing words are incapable of doing is remaining neutral.
Words can build up and tear down. What comes out of our mouth brings healing or undermines our connections with others by causing pain. Our words can help as well as hurt. There are times when we're producing the burn, and for that, we must confess to God and seek forgiveness, if possible, from those we have hurt.
Counting our words teaches us to be conscious of them and their power to either bless or curse those around us. A starting point for taking control of our tongue and becoming stewards of our words is a word inventory. Over the next few days, watch for patterns and trends in your speech. While recording your findings, reflect on the following questions:
How do you tend to use your words? Are there certain times of the day or night when your speech gets out of hand? Are the words you use different depending on the type of people you are around? Are there certain people you tend to blow up at, gossip about, or harshly criticize? What emotions seem to drive your speech?
Taking a moment to ponder the answer to these questions will help you assess where you are at with this ongoing struggle and lead you to displaying a soothing tongue more often.
What emotions seem to drive your speech?
How can you collect your thoughts and ponder your words before engaging in a crucial conversation?
God, may I give thought to the words I speak. I want my speech to uplift others and represent You well. In those moments when I am ready to lose my cool, help me to pause and reflect on what is driving my words. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.