“Mommy, guess what happened at preschool today?” My little girl excitedly asked.
“I have no idea. Tell me what happened, sweet girl, ” I answered as we got in the car to drive home.
She quickly blurted out, “Olivia KISSED Hunter!”
Trying desparately not to completely over-react, I ever-so-calmly asked, “so what did you do? Did you kiss Hunter too?”
I held my breath for her answer. Without missing a beat, my four year-old proudly said, “no, mommy! Of course, I didn’t kiss Hunter. I was too busy spreading the news!”
Well, let’s just say our little bedtime routine that night included a talk about kissing boys as well as one about spreading the news.
As I walked out of her room that night, I had to chuckle at the honesty of her answer and then it hit me- I wonder how many times I have been guilty of spreading the news and using my words in ways less than ideal.
Words. We use them every day. In fact, statistics say women average between 10,000-20,000 words a day. (Okay, I’m just going to own it- I’m more than likely on the 20k end of the continuum.) But regardless of whether one is a person of few or many words, the bottom line is that ALL OF OUR WORDS MATTER.
Words have the power to breathe life or devastation on those around us. The Bible says in Proverbs 16:24 that “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” And Ephesians 4:29 gives us the following instruction for our words: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that is may benefit those who listen.”
If only words were always spoken for helping, building others up, and benefiting those who listen. How different things would be.
Perhaps how different this man’s life would have been had he encountered different words:
He was a quiet man. One who had many struggles in life, but one who was trying to turn things around. He had worked hard all day and his appearance attested to it with his muddy, cement-stained jeans and his dirty, tattered shirt. But his weary heart was searching that night, so he went as he was and stumbled into a church as a last ditch effort to find peace. It took every bit of courage to walk through the door. Failure after failure had stripped him down to a shell of a man filled with regret. Somehow, he put one foot in front of the other and found his way to the back row of the church. But before he could sit down, someone swiftly approached him asking him why he was dressed as he was and why he didn’t have more respect for God’s house. The forlorn man looked down in embarrassment, mumbled an apology, and quickly stumbled back out the door with the man’s words still ringing in his ears.
Those words never stopped ringing in the depths of his soul. From that day forward, this quiet man never darkened the door of a church again, and he never broke free from his broken life or found the peace he was so desperately searching for.
That man was my dad, and I can tell you first-hand that the memory of that heart-breaking experience never faded away for him…or for me. It made a lasting impression on my heart and taught me the powerful lesson that not only do words matter but WORDS ARE FOREVER. Once they are said, they are out there forever. Yes, apologies can be given, but nothing can fully erase our words. This is why it is so important that we truly think before we communicate and respond in love rather than react with our emotions.
The Bible says in Matthew 12:36 that we will give an account for every idle word that we have spoken. So whether I am spreading the news or lashing out in judgement or anger, my words have lasting consquences that I am accountable for.
Ultimately, WORDS REVEAL OUR CHARACTER. Luke 6:45b tells us that what is in our hearts comes out in what we speak. So, when our words are cynical, judgmental, angry, or hate-filled, it all originates from within.
I will be the first to say that I am not perfect and my words and my heart can stray from what I know is right. But here’s what I do know: I want to honor and please God with everything- my words, my actions, and my heart. And the only way that I know to do that is to make this the prayer of my life:
Keeper of my heart, I don’t always get it right, and I sure can make a mess of things sometimes when I open my mouth. But my heart’s cry is that my soul will be so in tune with You that everything that flows out of the wellsprings of my heart truly brings honor and glory to Your name. Help my words to be uplifting and point people to You. May I use my lips to speak life, hope, and encouragement to those around me. And most of all, I ask You to empty me of me, and fill me with Your power, Your presence, Your love, and Your words each day. This I pray in the powerful name of Jesus. Amen.