“Words, words, words. Our society is full of words: on billboards, on television screens, in newspapers and books. Words whispered, shouted, and sung. Words that move, dance, and change in size and color. Words that say, ‘Taste me, smell me, eat me, drink me, sleep with me,’ but most of all, ‘buy me.’ With so many words around us, we quickly say: ‘Well, they’re just words.’ Thus, words have lost much of their power.
Still, the word has the power to create. When God speaks, God creates. When God says, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3), light is. God speaks light. For God, speaking and creating are the same. It is this creative power of the word we need to reclaim. What we say is very important. When we say, ‘I love you,’ and say it from the heart, we can give another person new life, new hope, new courage. When we say, ‘I hate you,’ we can destroy another person. Let’s watch our words” (Henri Nouwen).
The old saying that sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me is a lie. Words spoken in hatred and anger have done more damage that all the sticks and stones put together. The damage isn’t always apparent. Sometimes, it doesn’t show itself to the naked eye. But people carry more grievous wounds from words than from any physical harm. Words can harm. Words can kill.
That’s why James talks about the tongue so much. He said that such a small instrument can cause a world of destruction or can bring healing and wholeness. He also said that you can’t say you love God and hate your brother. You can’t speak about love to God and then use that same tongue to defile and denigrate others.
Choose your words wisely. It is true that we have two ears and one mouth so that we listen twice as much as we speak. Let your words be full of wisdom and not wounding, for building up and not breaking down.
“May the words that come out of my mouth and the musings of my heart
meet with Your gracious approval,
O Eternal, my Rock,
O Eternal, my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14, The Voice).