The Power of Words (Part 1)

Dear Friends,

I've been thinking recently about the power of our words.

How many of you remember when you were at school saying this playground chant: "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me"?

The truth is that whilst being physically hurt causes physical pain, it's not true that words don't hurt us. Words can and do cause us much pain, they bruise our hearts, they can leave deep scars and cause all kinds of damage.

Words such as, "You're ugly...stupid...fat...no good...a failure...hopeless...etc"  cause so much harm, not only at the time, but also on in to the future if we don't do something about them.  So what can we do?

Step 1. Let go of the words that have damaged us - reject them and leave them with God.

Step 2. Ask God to heal us from the pain - he is our healer.  "He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds."  Psalm 147:3 (NLT)

Step 3. Fill our minds with the truth from God's word. Jesus said in John 6:63 "And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life." (NLT)   He is our creator, he has redeemed us, he has adopted us as his children, he has a purpose for our lives.     

Whilst not deliberately, I confess there have been times when I have spoken words that I know have caused pain.  Times when I've been frustrated with my children, over-reacted to something they've done and then responded with words of anger.  Times when I've snapped at Jason when he hasn't deserved it. The damage is done so quickly.  Unintentional damage, but damage just the same.

The tongue is a small, but dangerous part of the body.  James tells us how just as a tiny spark can start a fire and do a whole load of damage so too can the tongue. "A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell." James 3:5-6 (The Message)

Negative words, words spoken in anger, words that knock people down, words of critisicim, gossiping words are the kind of words I don't want on my lips.  Yes, I can seek forgiveness for them after the fact, but what can I do to prevent them from ever being spoken?

James goes on to say "People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison." James 3:7-8 (NLT)

Willpower on its own is just not enough.  Just try it and see how frustrated you become by your failure in this area.  Trying harder just doesn't work.  I don't have the strength or self-control to live this way.  This would be discouraging if we didn't have the answer to the problem with our tongue.  But we do have the answer, so what can we do?

1. It's true that no person can ever tame the tongue, but we have someone living in us who does have the power to tame the tongue.  He is the Holy Spirit and Ephesians 5:18 tells us that we are to "be filled with the Holy Spirit".  This is not a one off action, it actually means to be filled and keep on beng filled by the Holy Spirit, moment by moment, day by day.  This means that throughout my day I can keep going to him and ask for his help to tame my tongue.  As we daily, and moment by moment, seek to be filled with him he gives us the self-control we need (see Galatians 5:23).

2. The Holy Spirit living within you and me gives us spiritual wisdom and enables us to speak and act in a way that is pleasing to God.  "17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."  James 3:17-18 (ESV)

James has already written about wisdom earlier in his letter.  "If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you."  James 1:5 (NLT)  If I ask Him he will give me wisdom in the way I use my words and wisdom to know when to speak, what to say and when to stay silent.

3. James also says "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry." James 1:19 (NLT)  If I practice listening more and being slower to speak then I'm less likely to say something I may regret and less likely to hurt someone by the things that I say.


This week I've written about The Power of Words - Taming the Tongue.  Next week I plan to look at The Power of Words - how we can use our words for good.

To Think About:
Have you been hurt in the past by the things that people have said to you?  Will you try working through those 3 steps I mentioned earlier?

Have you ever caused someone pain by the words you've spoken and how you've spoken them?  Have you tried in your own strength to tame your tongue?

What do you think will enable you to tame your tongue?  Will you do this?

Vicki


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