The old adage “actions speak louder than words” rings true, but it doesn’t tell the whole truth. Words matter. In fact, words carry the profound power to build up or destroy.
As kids we espoused that sticks and stones were the only things that could hurt us and words could never penetrate the force field of our heart. But all of life tells a different story.
Countless words others have spoken to me and over me reverberate in the chambers of my heart. Some serve to affirm and encourage me, while others still haunt and hurt me. Interestingly enough, some of these words are fresh and recent while others dug in the crevices of my heart decades ago.
Think of how common it is for someone to lament the absence of words like, “I love you.” “I am proud of you.” “God has made you simply wonderful.” or “You are so special.” Words can leave wounds that shape our perspective and understanding of God, self, the world and His role in it. Simple words carry a lifetime of significance.
Consider the life of Jesus. At His baptism, the inauguration of His public ministry, the perfect Son of God receives the verbal affirmation of His Father: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). The Father speaks words of affirmation, identification and love to His Son. This is noteworthy and profound.
The rest of Scripture relentlessly addresses words, the tongue and the power thereof. Perhaps the most significant is Jesus’ clarification that our words reveal our heart (Matt. 12:34). Our mouth is an overflow of what is bubbling up in our souls. Don’t miss the weight of application for us. When we speak words to others, we let them into the window of our hearts, what we think and believe. Conversely, when we don’t speak words, we leave others to wonder and question what is really going on inside of us and how we feel about them. In either case, the revelation of our hearts to others or the silence of it leaves a mark for good or bad. Neutrality is not an option.
I am not saying that our words speak things into existence. I am not saying that our words work like a magic spell. I am not saying that if you change your words, you will change your life. I am saying that words, the presence or absence of them, carry the weight of blessing or curse.
My hope is that we would begin speaking with greater resolve and conviction to bless those around us with our words. My hope is that we would be parents who buoy our children’s confidence by courageously speaking words of love and affirmation, spouses who quickly bless, encourage and forgive one another audibly as an overflow of the heart, friends who, with the skill of a surgeon, use our words to help shape and sharpen each other. My hope is that we would better understand the weight of our words.
Here are some verses to ponder:
- Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. Proverbs 18:21
- But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. Matthew 15:18
- There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18
- Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
- I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak…. Matthew 12:36
- Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24
- Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14
- A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Proverbs 25:11
- Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Romans 12:14
- Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. Colossians 4:6
- Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Proverbs 27:6
- A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. Proverbs 15:4
- Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Psalm 141:3
- And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. James 3:6-12