“Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” Proverbs 18:21 (MSG)
What is the soundtrack of your life? What are the themes, topics, experiences and memories that are constantly going through your mind, and finding their way out of your mouth? If you don’t know, you may want to find out, and soon. For you see, our words are a compass. They quickly reveal not only where we are, but also where we are going. Whether we want to believe it or not, our words have power. Moreover, our words expose the quality and condition of our hearts. For, “The mouth speaks the things that are in the heart.” Matthew 12:34b (NCV)
I’ll be the first to admit that I am a words person. Words make me happy. Except when they don’t. For you see, what is becoming increasingly more disturbing to me is the way that too many of us use our words against ourselves and against others. And, the longer that I live, the more I am coming to learn that the writer of Proverbs Eighteen is right. Words either kill or they give life; and the choice is all mine.
The number of things, people and situations in our lives and world over which we have utterly no control could never be counted. Yet, one thing, which we absolutely can command is our tongue. Nevertheless, this is an area where many of us struggle. Instead of using our wise minds and sincere hearts to dominate our tongues and dictate the course of our lives; more and more we are being dominated by our tongues. I am not saying that words are all that matter; and yes, I know the necessity of things said only in jest. But, I need us to understand that words matter so much more than we often realize. The old adage says that “actions speak louder than words.” However, the truth is that our actions are the words that we have already spoken. We will never do the things that we say we cannot do. We will never become the people that we declare that we cannot become. Thus, it would behoove us to get command of our tongues before the chaos, addiction, and destruction that our mouths help to create has been manifested. Because by the time that our words become actions, it is usually too late. It’s like this: our beliefs become our thoughts. Thoughts become words. Words become actions. Actions become our lifestyle. If you want to change your life, you need to do it on a level well beyond behavior. Behavior is surface. Behavior can be easily manipulated and altered. Words are different. Changing our conversation takes great effort because our words are deep-seated in our beliefs and inextricable from our hearts.
During the month of May, we will present a short series about the power of the tongue. Our goal is to inspire us all to be more cautious, considerate and careful about the words that we think and say. In this first week, we ask that you simply seek to answer the question that was posed at the beginning of this piece. What is the soundtrack of your life? What words are you repeating over and over, to yourself and to others? For the next seven days listen to what you are saying. And, to the extent that you realize that what is in your head and coming out of your mouth is not what you want to live; stop saying it. Here are some pointers that can help you do this:
Pause – Listen to your words. Reflect upon your words. Be more careful. “Those who are careful about what they say protect their lives, but whoever speaks without thinking will be ruined.” Proverbs 13:3 (NCV)
Practice – All change takes an investment of time and energy. If you find that your words are not what they should be, be kind to yourself about it. Extend grace inward. God does not want to condemn you. God wants to unleash the power within you to be and do better. Practice self-love. Moreover, practice self-control. Most of the times that we misspeak, we do so out of anger, frustration, pain, or even fear. Reclaim your personal authority by submitting yourself to God and allowing the Holy Spirit to help you develop new patterns and forge new paths with your words.
Pray – Ask for help. Oftentimes we are oblivious to our habits of speaking, living and being. Like asking fish to recognize water, asking us to see our faults and inconsistencies and to hear our own broken soundtracks is very very hard. Nevertheless, we are not alone. Jesus is available and able to guide us, if we will only ask. So, pray and ask the Lord to reveal to you any areas where you are speaking death instead of life. Ask those with whom you are in close relationship as well. Be open to feedback and willing to change. “Stay awake and pray for strength against temptation. The spirit wants to do what is right, but the body is weak.” Mark 14:38 (NCV)
We do not have to look very far to see the impact of destructive words upon our lives, homes, communities and world. Nevertheless, I believe we can make things different, one word at a time. If you agree, share this message with others. Like us on FaceBook and follow us on Twitter. Let’s start an epidemic of positivism, compassion, laughter, healing and love. It starts with first knowing what you are saying.
“With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women [made in God’s] image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth! My friends, this can’t go on.” James 3:8-10 (MSG)