These were the words I found waiting for me in a message from my daughter-in-law recently after I had informed my kids of a writing goal I had just reached. These nine little words had a big impact on me; so much so, it seems they became cemented in my thoughts. It's become nearly impossible to stop them from rising up within me with every word I speak or hear from others. I constantly find myself wondering, where will those words take you?
Every time I ask myself that question I find myself face to face with this truth: words are powerful and absolutely will take us someplace. The question I decided to start asking is, am I happy with the destination?
My sister, Kara, liked to retell the story of the time she and her husband were driving with our kids and took a wrong turn. She would break into laughter at the memory of our youngest son asking from the back seat, “Aunt Kara, where have you tooken us now?” I thought this might be a good time to consider the same question about our words — “Where have they tooken you now?”
It’s pretty easy for me to find myself lost after taking a wrong turn with my words. I’ve been in numerous uncomfortable situations because I allowed words to roll out of my mouth with little or no thought. Rather than have a Proverbs 16:24 moment and allow my words to be pleasant like honey—sweet and healing would not always describe what flows from my lips—I’ve exposed the irritation and impatience stirring within me. There’s nothing healing when words are cutting or rude. My daughter calls it being snarky. There was a time excuses covered my harshness by labeling it as sarcasm. But then it was pointed out to me that sarcasm is just a nicer form of anger and angry words lead to hurt - regardless of how you try to sugarcoat them. Laurence J. Peter said, “Speak when you are angry - and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret.” Oh my! I resemble that remark. Angry words have slipped through my lips, or off my texting fingers, that I still regret today. And while God is always forgiving I have found it takes people a bit longer to let it go. Our words definitely take us somewhere. Where have yours taken you?
I’ve noticed the words of my grandchildren have the power to take them straight to time-out and, at times, rather quickly. For some, their words have led a spouse to the couch or a separate bedroom – quite possibly a divorce lawyer. Words can put an end to relationships when they abuse rather than appreciate. We always have the choice to use our words to bully others or build them up. If the lips of the godly speak helpful words how do your words help those around you (Proverbs 10:32)? Our words are leading us somewhere in our relationships – are we where we always dreamed we would be? Where have your words taken you in your relationships?
There's always plenty of opportunity to speak words of truth or words that spread lies. However, speak words of truth too quickly and they often come out thoughtless, insensitive and offensive. John Maxwell said, “People may hear your words but they feel your attitude.” Oh. My. Goodness. Can I get an amen? We’ve probably all experienced a moment when we heard the words that held truth but felt the attitude as they hit your ears. Snarky. No one likes to be spoken to snarkily (I might have just made that word up). I don’t mean to speak for everyone but Proverbs 12:18 might be useful to those of us who tend to speak without thinking first. If we held this verse in our memory bank it might keep us from those wrong turns. “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18, AMP). Rash words could have you running to the emergency room with the one you’ve just driven the sword through. Isn’t it easier to hear truthful words delivered from someone who has given careful thought before they share them? Be wise when presenting your words to others. How have rash words been used against you? How many emergency room visits have you made?
The way you speak can cause you to lose the respect of others —even of yourself. Your words can comfort or crush. When we use words to imply we, or others, have no value we dishonor God and His creation. Moses believed himself incapable of surrendering to God’s call because of how he saw himself. When he was asked to go to Pharaoh he “… said to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I am not a man of words (eloquent, fluent), neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10, AMP). Dr. Suess wrote, “I'm afraid that sometimes you'll play lonely games too. Games you can't win 'cause you'll play against you.” Don’t allow your own words to be used against you to eliminate yourself from the life God always intended for you. He’s got good plans for each of His kids. Where are your words defeating you?
The Amplified Bible says Jesus’ words and works reflected His Messiahship (Matthew 9:35). How well do our words and works reflect our Christship? (I think I made up another word). As we allow God to change our identity —one letter at a time —let’s grab onto the understanding of what James instructed when he wrote, “…Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]” (James 1:19, AMP). I think what he is saying here is practice the pause before your words take you to a place you didn’t really want to end up.
appreciate or abuse
build or break
comfort or crush
dismiss or delight
Where have your words taken you?
A S-Speaker of carefully chosen words