“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”
Sticks & Stones
Debilitating. Crushing. Paralyzing. Words can cut to the core.
Almost every adult can tell you that rhyme that so many of us grew up learning about sticks and stones and words. I wish that simple rhyme was true. We will live, yes, but it can still hurt. Even something said flippantly can cause deep, stinging wounds.
My main love languages, almost tied, are physical touch and words of affirmation, so words do hurt. Especially when they come from someone close that I care about.
The enemy loves to bring up words over and over. Bouncing them around our head. Renewing our minds is important, and I plan to write a post on dealing with the enemy’s lies, but I want to look at how our words are affecting others.
It has been said that it takes 7 positive comments to outweigh 1 negative comment. In an office setting, it is recommended that managers make at least 5 positive comments for each negative one, though it is nearly 6. In marriage the recommended number is the same. The practice of constructive praise is the mark of a good manager.
Now, these links are mostly about businesses, but, we as women, are managers of our homes, and families, and the principles benefit marriage as well (as mentioned above). Our words influence, for better or worse, those around us.
The Bible makes is fairly clear the power that the tongue has.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.
Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
A soothing tongue is a tree of life, But perversion in it crushes the spirit.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.
The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
He who restrains his words has knowledge, And he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
[This] you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak [and] slow to anger; … If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his [own] heart, this man’s religion is worthless.
We must weigh our words carefully. Their impact could be enormous, whether or not we intend them to be.
So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and [yet] it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the [very] world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of [our] life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; [it is] a restless evil [and] full of deadly poison. With it we bless [our] Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come [both] blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening [both] fresh and bitter [water?]
I have shared before about how we are called to worship God with every breath. When we speak, it would behoove us to remember that the person we are speaking to is made in the image of God.
“But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such [a word] as is good for edification according to the need [of the moment,] so that it will give grace to those who hear.
Frederick Douglass said “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
Grace filled speech is a topic that I have touched on before, though in a slightly different light.
Bricks & Feathers
Think about wearing a backpack.
Each positive comment is a feather, but each negative one is a brick.
Taking a feather’s weight off of a brick does not do much. The average standard brick weighs 4.5 pounds. A typical feather weighs about .0082 grams (55,316 feathers per pound!).
As we are using negative words we weigh others, and sometimes ourselves, down.
Dripping water can erode the strongest rocks. A constant flow of negative comments wears the soul out.
Words of Wisdom on Our Words
Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.
Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.
Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.
The way that we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.
I would dare say that this would also apply to our spouses as well, especially if words of affirmation are high in their love languages.
The Science of How Words Affect Us
Science is still discovering things about how God has wired our brains.
When we face criticism, rejection or fear, when we feel marginalized or minimized, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviors. We become more reactive and sensitive. We often perceive even greater judgment and negativity than actually exists. And these effects can last for 26 hours or more, imprinting the interaction on our memories and magnifying the impact it has on our future behavior. Cortisol functions like a sustained-release tablet – the more we ruminate about our fear, the longer the impact.
Positive comments and conversations produce a chemical reaction too. They spur the production of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that elevates our ability to communicate, collaborate and trust others by activating networks in our prefrontal cortex. But oxytocin metabolizes more quickly than cortisol, so its effects are less dramatic and long-lasting.
Doctors Richard and Judith Glaser HBR June 2014
Bank Account, THINKing Before We Speak
Another way to look at it is in the way we would a bank account. We must make sure that their are funds in the account to cover what we are taking out.
Yes, there will be times that we need to restore a brother or sister, or teach children right from wrong, but it much be done in love, with gentleness (Galatians 6:1)
A good way to help remember this is the “think” before we speak.
True. This one is fairly obvious, right? Is what we are saying objectively true?
Helpful. Will this comment help this person better themselves?
Inspirational. Will this inspire this person to change or encourage them onward?
Necessary. Does this have to be said? What part has to be said?
Kind. Am I doing this in a kind way? Am I being loving and gentle in my words.
Have you stopped recently to think about how your words impact those around you?
Have you been impacted by careless words?
Have you been encouraged by intentional words?