You may be familiar with the childhood rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” For a child, that may seem like a great comeback toward a bully with a sharp tongue, but the statement is undeniably false. Words can and do hurt! In fact …
The tongue has the power of life and death. – Proverbs 18:21
The tongue — our words — can be used for good or bad, to build or destroy, to commend or cut down. With our tongues we can express: gratitude, love, joy, truth, hope, encouragement, trust, kindness, gentleness, humility, wisdom, and purity.
Or, the tongue can be: destructive, caustic, divisive, unloving, harsh, deceitful, boastful, self-serving, hateful, demeaning, foolish, and obscene.
What influences our words?
The things we say are the fruit, cultivated and growing out of the environment with which we choose to surround ourselves. And these factors fall on us. We must take responsibility for this environment. Our words are formed by:
- Our thinking and beliefs. Generally, we speak what we believe and think. If we think cruel thoughts, more than likely, they’ll spawn cruel words. If we think kind thoughts, they produce kind words. What we think and believe determines how we speak.
- Who we hang out with. The company we keep has a profound impact on who we are, what we think and what we say. If the people we’re around are positive and upbeat, their mood and words rub off on us and we tend to act and talk like them. But if we hang around those who are negative and obscene, our words will begin to reflect their mood and behaviors.
- What we watch and listen to. The movies, video games and programs we watch and listen to can also have a huge effect on us. We really can’t walk away unscathed by a constant barrage of violence, sex and obscenity. Whatever we fill our minds with will work its way out in our behaviors and words. Don’t be fooled by thinking, “it’s just entertainment.”
- What we read. The books we read also frame our thinking and our words. We want to fill our minds with the kind of things that we should be thinking about and want to express with our words.
Those 4 factors influence our words in a big way. We don’t want to opt for “garbage in, garbage out.”
4 tips for guarding the tongue
To take greater control of your tongue, engage the following tips together and not just individually. Ask yourself:
- Is it truthful? Is what I’m about to say accurate? But be careful. We don’t want to say something hurtful under the guise of speaking “truth.” Just because something is true, doesn’t require that we say it if it’s going to harm others. Also, are we representing truth in our promotions and advertising? “A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare.” (Proverbs 21:6)
- Is it loving and kind? Relationships are one of our most precious commodities. An unkind word can destroy a relationship quickly and thoroughly. “The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4)
- Is it beneficial for the person hearing it? Will my words be appropriate and build up this person? How will they benefit from what I’m about to say? Is what I’m about to say prudent, or am I better off keeping my thoughts to myself? “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24)
- Am I talking too much? We have two ears and only one mouth for a reason. Listen much, talk little. “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” (Proverbs 17:28)
One more thing
For some reason, we seem to be able to curb our tongues fairly well when it comes to dealing with clients. But when we’re at home, we often fail miserably in our words with those we love. Allow me to challenge us especially to follow the above tips when we’re with our family and friends and to do the same when speaking with clients.