Arguably, we’re always talking… whether verbally or by the use of gestures. But question is, how often do we take a moment to contemplate the effects our words have on others? Do we build people or we destroy them? Our tongues, like Joel Osteen was saying in a sermon I was listening to last week, are like swords, depending on how we use them. If we use condescending words on others, to make them feel small and insignificant, we destroy. On the other hand, when we utter polite, encouraging words, we build them.
Take the case of a young child; every time the parent tells them they’re bad, these words, though not always said in bad faith, but for chastising purposes, create a negative mind-set. If it’s a statement that’s made repeatedly, the child starts to internalize it and they grow up with a low self-esteem. The same also happens, where two people are in a relationship, and the perceived dominant partner constantly tells the other that they are unattractive. Such words have the potential to impact someone so negatively, that their self-esteem ebbs, leaving them completely devoid of any sense of worth…
Joel Osteen looked at the issue from both sides; it could be a person in authority using their words to demean their subordinate, or it could be the latter, lashing out at their senior in a moment of rage during a heated altercation. “You might experience a high for about ten minutes, high five other colleagues because you drove the point straight home… But a few minutes later, you’ll realise the boss still has his job and you don’t”.
Hurtful words said in anger could torment one for years, though they might have been uttered in just a second. The one saying them might live in constant regret, whereas the one on the receiving end will always feel scarred. Sometimes we might say sorry, and that is good; nonetheless, the sorry, however sincere, will never erase the scars caused. That is how deep our tongues could cut. The damage caused might be irreparable.
I remember this one time my mom gave me a piece of paper, where she had written a story she had stumbled upon while browsing online. I don’t remember the particular facts, but it was about a young girl who was given a small plank of wood and a set of nails by her mom. She was instructed to hammer in a nail every time she said hurtful words to someone.
As per the instructions given, she drove nails into the plank of wood whenever she offended someone. One day her mom asked to see the plank, which by then was full of nails. Handing her a hammer, she asked her to pull them out and again, she did as instructed. As one would expect, when the girl had completed her assignment there were several holes visible on the plank.
Subsequently, the mom went on to explain what the little assignment was about. “This is what happens every time you say hurtful words to someone. You can take the words back, but you can’t erase the scars.” This in my opinion, is similar to what Joel Osteen was trying to explain. Words have the power to scar someone, inflict excruciating pain… and you know that saying, “You can forget the words, but you can never forget how those words made you feel.”
This is what we need to remember when we’re addressing others. It should be a personal reflection which we’re required to make before we speak. Furthermore, when others say hurtful things to us, we should just take a minute to contemplate the effects of the words we intend to throw back at them. What’s worth noting is that nasty words can’t be used to put out a fire; they only fuel the flames.
Contrary to common belief, an honourable person is he who walks away from a fight. Taking the high road doesn’t automatically imply that one is a fool or weak for that matter. Contrariwise, it shows one has enough grace to walk away.
Furthermore, Joel advised people not to be like the Israelites. Their sword-like tongues and negative mind-sets made a journey that was initially meant to take 11 days from Egypt to Canaan turn into a 40-year old journey. He said they went around the same hill for 40 years, would you believe that? They complained incessantly and resorted to idolatry. Such, was the height of their ingratitude.
We, have the chance to make different choices. God blesses the humble, so while we’re contemplating hurling insults at someone, we should keep that in mind. It may take all strength trying to will away the negative words waiting at the tip of the tongue to spill out, but the rewards of withholding them far outweighs any momentary gratification one might have gained from letting others have it.
Truth is, we don’t always have to say what we think… and some things, in all honesty, are better left unsaid. This is the fundamental mentality we could use to turn these swords we wield into instruments of building others, and ultimately, the world around us.