I said it, and I couldn’t take it back.

In the heat of the moment (on a demanding, dreary day and on much too little sleep) I had let my guard down and the anger in my heart slipped out through words that I would immediately regret. The recipient of those harsh words? My amazing ten year old, who through no fault of his own just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

My impatient words cut straight to his heart, evidenced by the way his entire body shut down right before my eyes. A boy who had been eager to share about his day walked away with his head down; his spirit broken. And everything in me wished I could turn back time and start over.

I’d slow down.

I’d change my tone.

Soften my demeanor.

Select each word more carefully.

Intentionally look for ways to build up instead of tear down.

I’d exchange harsh words for gentle ones.

I’d talk less.

I’d listen more.

If I had the chance to do it all over again, I’d use the words I want my boy to repeat. In my speech, I’d represent the Jesus this world so desperately needs to hear.

There’s a reason why over 100 verses in the book of Proverbs address wisdom in our speech. We’re a mess in a thousand ways when it comes to our words, and unlike a lot of things in life, there are no “do-overs” when it comes to the thoughts that come spewing out of our mouths. Once our words are out (orally, written, or published with a touch of the finger), they’re out. And while nothing is beyond God’s powerful redemption, the power of words can often wound for a lifetime.

But wisdom.

God knows our tendencies to talk too much, to weigh our words too little, to speak before thinking, and to compromise truth and grace when we communicate with others. It will surely take God’s transforming power, applying wisdom from His Word, and a whole lot of intentionality on our parts to break these sinful habits. It won’t be easy, but it’s never too late to start honoring God in our speech.

Here’s where I’m starting this week…

Garbage In = Garbage Out

In this highly accessible, harsh world that we live in (where technology reigns, shock-value is celebrated, and free speech has taken on a whole new meaning), it’s easy to become desensitized to the speech we allow to influence our hearts and homes. When we miss time in the Word but wouldn’t dare miss interacting with our favorite (and sometimes questionable) media outlet, and when we constantly fill our minds with anxious and angry thoughts instead of what is excellent and praiseworthy, we shouldn’t be surprised when the result of our speech is less than admirable. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. Think on things that are true, noble, right, pure, and lovely. Fill up with goodness and be glad in God, so that goodness can’t help but overflow out of you and onto others. 

“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” – Proverbs 12:25

Be Soft in a Hard World

Every family, workplace, and church has their own resident cynic – the one you can count on to bring dissension, strife, and negativity with her words to most any situation. Maybe this has been you. As hard as it is to admit, I can think of times when it’s been me. If we’re not careful, we can let sin and the weight of the world harden our hearts to the point of destruction, resulting in words coming out of our mouths that are out of alignment with our profession of faith. But soft hearts that submit to God’s wisdom can produce soft words, and soft words can change the atmosphere for good. Soft words seek to heal instead of destroy. Soft words stop gossip in its tracks and instead build people up. Soft words bring hope and speak truth. Be wise, be careful… be soft in a hard world.

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1

Start With You

You may have been deeply wounded by someone’s words in the past, but contrary to the popular saying, wounded people don’t have to wound people. Jesus is in the business of transforming lives, and forgiveness and new beginnings are possible in His name. Today, we can start again. Today, we don’t have to wait for the other person to change. Today, the cycle can stop with us. We can extend forgiveness, and humbly ask for it. As much as it depends on us, we can strive to live at peace with all men. We can be life-givers with our words… one thought, one comment, one conversation at a time.

“A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness [contrary to what is right or good] in it breaks the spirit.” – Proverbs 15:4

Let’s talk: Where do you struggle with wisdom in your speech? What is one step YOU can take TODAY to walk in wisdom in this area?

At His feet,

 

 

Week 2 Challenge: Every day this week, plan one intentional way that you will use your words to change the atmosphere for good. Ideas: place an encouraging note in your child’s lunchbox or on your co-worker’s desk, send an uplifting Bible verse in a text message, respond to a harsh word with gentleness, bring a word of hope to a difficult conversation…

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