Words are powerful.
They have the power to hurt, the power to heal, the power to ruin your day or make it better.
Certain words can make you want to crawl in a hole (I’ll never forget being the first kid in my kindergarten class to have glasses and being called “four-eyes”), and other words can alter the course of your life in the best ways possible.
God tells us that our words can bring death or they can bring life. Basically, our words can kill someone from the inside out or they can make a person come alive. Intense, right?
As humans, we’re so quick to carelessly throw our words around.
I never cease to be amazed by some of the words—some of the crazy, insane things—people say. Whether it’s two friends talking smack about each other or random strangers yelling in the fast-food line; kids whining disrespectfully to parents, or parents on a power trip with their kids; spouses bad mouthing each other or coworkers gossiping about the whole office.
And we haven’t even mentioned what people will say online, and through email, on Facebook, in text messages and on Twitter. There are so many times when I just want to ask, “Would you ever say that in person? What were you hoping to gain?” So many times I want to type, “You don’t know everything,” or “Just go talk to the person instead of trashing them all over Facebook.”
It’s hard to wrap my head around the crazy things that some people will say, and yet when I’m honest I’m just as amazed—maybe even more so—by some of the crazy, insane words that have come out of my own mouth.
Yes, the words of others can bring death or life, but the truth is our own words are just as powerful.
In a day and age when we’re so quick to be high and mighty and offended because of someone else’s words, I just gotta ask: Are we just as offended by our own words?
Honestly, how are you and I using our words? Not someone else. How are we using our words when we talk to our coworkers, our neighbors, our family and our friends?
Are our words bringing life? Or are they bringing death?
Here are two practical steps that will help us be better at using our words to give life instead of death.
First off, be quiet. It’s as simple as that. Do you want your words to bring life instead of death? Just be quiet!
Easier said than done, right? … Why? Because our opinion matters. And we usually think it’s the right opinion. We need to speak our minds. And people need to hear what we think.
But honestly, when we’re quiet our words become more important, and people want to listen when we actually do speak.
Also, being quiet helps to control our words. It gives us the ability to think through our words, and more often than not, decide not to speak at all.
Maybe the most important reason for being quiet is that it gives us the ability to truly love another person. How? By simply listening to them. When we let others speak, we’re actively valuing what they have to say.
Another way to make sure our words bring life and not death is to speak gently. I can’t imagine how many problems we would avoid in our marriages and at work and just in general if we were to speak gently.
There are times when we should be quiet, but there are other times when we should speak. How we speak, though, matters so much.
If we learn to speak gently …
Instead of getting defensive and angry, people will listen.
Instead of creating more division, our words will bring healing.
Instead of automatically hating people we disagree with, we’ll be able to see and respect their side.
More than anything, when we speak gently we show other people Jesus, and they’re drawn to the Jesus in us. Seriously. If you want to turn people away from God, just be a loud and obnoxious Christian who is slow to listen and quick to speak. But if you want people to truly see Jesus, be quick to listen, and when you speak, speak gently. People will want to know about the God you follow.
One more time: Be quiet and speak gently.
Why? Because our words are so powerful. They matter. They can bring death or life.
Adam Weber is the founder and lead pastor of Embrace—a church that has six campuses in South Dakota and Minnesota—and the author of Talking With God: What to Say When You Don’t Know How to Pray (WaterBrook, 2017). This article was originally published on AdamWeber.com.