Words are powerful. They can be used as tools to build a brighter future or as medicines that heal broken hearts. Sadly, they can also be used as weapons that destroy a life or a family. The irony is that while most of us would never take a gun and fire it carelessly into a crowd, we seldom use the same discretion with the words we “let fly” to whomever will listen. Sometimes it slips out. We didn’t mean to say it; it just happened. A moment of weakness. A desire to join in the conversation. Just a little bit of information that we want to share to prove we know more than someone else knows. It isn’t intended to be mean-spirited. You aren’t trying to hurt anyone. It just happens. Only later do you realize that words take on lives of their own once they leave your mouth, and there is nothing you can do to stop them.
It’s like the little boy who said some hateful things to his friend and immediately was sorry he had said it. His thoughts were troubled all day because of the hurt he had caused, so he asked his father what he could do about it. “Son,” his father said, “take this hammer and nail and drive it into that board, pull it out, and do it again as many times as you can.” The boy did what his father said. His dad looked at him with sadness in his eyes, and he said, “Son, hateful words are like those nails. You can take them back, but they always leave a scar behind.”
There are two things that we can do as Christians that will keep our words from being destructive. First, we can pray as the psalmist did in Psalm 19:14 (NKJV): “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.” This cannot be a one-time prayer. It is something that we must voice daily – and sometimes hourly. When we humble ourselves before God and ask Him to guide our words and then listen to Him as He instructs us, we will not be guilty of being hateful. Sometimes He will lead us to use stern words to correct situations, but those words must come from a loving heart or they become evil as well. If you aren’t sure in a given situation whether your words are right or not, follow Paul’s guidance in Philippians 4:8 (NKJV): “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.” When we allow God to guide our words, there will never be any gossip, backbiting, or critical spirits. Most of our conflicts would disappear. The “shalom” of the Old Testament would become real in our lives.
I did say that there are two things we can do to keep our words from being destructive, so here is number 2. When we do say things that we shouldn’t say, we should immediately confess our wrongdoing – to God and to the person against whom we spoke. Humble yourself and ask for forgiveness. While it doesn’t stop the hurt, it does begin the healing process.