We said it. Now we wish we could take it back. Perhaps we didn’t think before we spoke. Maybe we spoke out of a moment of emotion like anger. Sometimes we knowingly choose our words realizing the impact they will have on those who hear them. Indeed, words have a way of wounding. We know what it is like to be wounded by words and what it means to injure others with our own words.
In the letter of James in the New Testament, the author writes about the dangers of the human tongue. Tongues which form the words we use. In James 3: 5-6, we read, “the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. James encouraged these early Christians to watch their tongues. Even as followers of Jesus, James knew the power of words to heal and wound. In many ways, James cried out the warning of “fire” when it came to our words.
As followers of Jesus, our goal is to have our words guided by the Holy Spirit. When we live under the Holy Spirit’s influence, then our choice of words will be one that not only builds others up but also brings glory to God. Every word we speak is a testimony to our relationship with God. Jesus reminds us, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34) The sure way to know about a person’s heart is by the words they choose. Hearts filled in God’s Spirit will not talk bad about others, call people derogatory names, spread gossip, utter hate, or seek to tear others down. These word choices never glorify God.
So, wherever we find ourselves in conversation, may we choose words that honor God and build others up. May we choose words that are crafted in love, grace, and kindness. These are the words that matter and the words that make a difference in the lives of others.