I’ve been thinking a lot about words recently. My niece is almost three, and her vocabulary is astounding. Not only does she regularly use lingo such as “grandfather” and “adventure,” but she is always trying to learn new words! The past few days, she’s been experimenting with the proper use of many different terms. “Aunty Aileen, what does “hi” mean?” and “Respond is when someone messages you on the computer and you say hi back to them!” Despite her surprising grasp of language, she’s still hardly more than a baby, and at times she comes up with great alternatives like “I like to be gotted!” or “Aunty, I’m kneading your braid!”
The thing is, words are powerful. Just like my dear niece is discovering, words can communicate anything we want them to. As her vocabulary expands, so does her ability to effectively express her feelings, needs, and interests. But, despite their incredible ability to do good, words can also be dangerous. Through our words, we can build relationships, share the gospel, and lift each other up. We can also burn bridges, push others away from Christ, and tear people down.
But, despite their incredible ability to do good, words can also be dangerous.
The apostle Paul certainly understood the importance of words. He admonished the believers of his time, “When you talk, don’t say anything bad. But say the good things that people need—whatever will help them grow stronger. Then what you say will be a blessing to those who hear you” (Ephesians 4:29, ERV). Used thoughtfully, words can be just the thing that the people around us need to encourage and bless them. King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, also grasped the beauty of words when he exclaimed, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24, NKJV).
This pleasant, sweet and strengthening atmosphere is certainly the one I want surrounding me! But guarding our words is not always easy. Some people, like my beloved husband, are quite calculated, and tend to think about what they say before they say it. They often use few words, and the ones they do use carry deep meaning. But, there’s also people like me. I never run out of things to say. Whatever situation I am in, I can always think of a story to entertain, an opinion to share, or even an encouraging thought to uplift. However, my words often run so fast that I don’t even realize what I’ve said until it’s already out of my mouth!
This can be a real problem for me! Once a word has escaped my lips, I can never take it back. Sometimes I say things that I don’t really mean, or things that are hurtful to those around me. As much as I wish I could un-say these words, their affect is permanent. This is why King Solomon also advised, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19, NKJV). It is only through the strength of Christ that I can break my habits of speech and learn to think before I speak.
Once a word has escaped my lips, I can never take it back.
A few years ago, I was struggling with this habit, and I came across a little acronym for filtering my speech. Before I open my mouth, I should THINK. Is what I am about to say true? helpful? inspiring? necessary? kind? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then whatever it is doesn’t need to be said. If it’s not building the people around me up, then it’s better to be safe and steer clear.
Whether you are a man of few words or a chatter box like me, I know that each one of us can be more thoughtful and careful of the words we use. Just like my niece, we are learning all the time. Although our vocabularies may not be growing very quickly, we are still discovering the power of words each and every day. I want my discoveries to lead to uplifting communication, strong relationships, and sharing the love of Christ with a hurting world. Will you join me in choosing to THINK before you speak today?