The lips of the wise speak life but the lips of the fool speak folly. By his words a man is commended or condemned. Words can heal or wound.
My bible helps put verses 1-17 together but they pointed out some changes in topic. I decided to break them down a little bit. Today’s verses mostly deal with the mouth of man. Words matter! Listening to the words spoken or speaking them yourself has an impact on your life and those around you.
Again, words matter!
In my home, as my children were growing up, there were two words that were never allowed to be spoken to one another. The first was “shut-up”; the second “stupid.” The ban on the word “stupid” was more about labeling someone with this word. Children live up or down to the labels you give them. I would not allow ANYONE to put someone else down.
I banned the word “shut-up” when it started being used to end arguments. It is a demanding word and gives no value to the one shouted at. They were allowed to ask someone to be quiet which speaks to the volume of speech without slamming the door on the issue being discussed. The word “enough” was used to end the argument. This meant that nothing said any further would be effective in changing the participant’s minds. This was used if my children tried to beg me into allowing them to do something. It meant my answer was firm and it was NOT going to change. End of discussion.
I had a friend whose husband served in the army with my ex-husband. When they were on deployment we spent a lot of time together. Her children were constantly begging her for what they wanted and she would give in. She complained to me about them not listening to her. We set the children down and made a ‘contract’ between them and her. The children would bring their requests to her. She would hold off on giving an answer for five minutes. During this time the children would leave her to seriously consider the matter. Once her decision was made she would tell the children and they had to live with her answer. She was to have weighed out the pros and cons for her answer before delivering it and to hold to that answer, regardless of the children’s reaction. This worked for about two weeks. Then they all went back to their regular patterns.
Our words need to be weighed before they are released. “A soft answer turns away wrath” (verse 1a) when it is reasoned out and delivered with love. Often it includes a sharing of the reasoning used to arrive at this conclusion.
Harsh words are usually spoken in anger and they can NEVER be retrieved. These are words meant to inflict hurt, to belittle another. And no matter how many times you apologize, that wound still remains. The mind will return to it time and Time and TIME again. This is especially true when those words come from someone in authority or someone who claims to love you. Experts tell us that it takes FIVE positive words to counter ONE negative one.
Be careful with you words, for words matter!
Be careful also of where you seek words from. The words I’m referring to are words of advice, words of understanding, AND words of affirmation. Taking advice from anyone on the street is a recipe for disaster. You need to know the person who you seek advice from and trust them. That trust is built on looking at their life experience IN THE AREA you are seeking help in. A person who focuses only on math probably isn’t the best person to ask how to teach your children how to swim. Look at their life and their results before accepting their advice.
Words of understanding refers to asking someone to explain a concept to you. I have had several people in my life ask me to explain legal correspondence to them. I have proven my ability to make sense of ‘legal-ease’ and have been able to explain the concepts in language they can understand. I can explain math concepts, up to a point, also and help some of my family members with their homework. But don’t ask me to explain politics or explain how one leader rises above another. I have no interest or experience in this arena. Seek out someone who demonstrates experience and understanding for you area of need.
Word of affirmation are WONDERFUL to receive! But the one giving those words matters. Think of the battered wife who hears her husband tell her repeatedly how special she is to him and how he loves her. His words are deceitful and designed to make her feel as everything that is wrong must be her fault. These words bind her tighter than any cords could. Words of affirmation given with a loving heart build the receiver up. They are not given in an attempt to control or for gain. They are meant to encourage and heal broken places. A child, or even an adult, who receives words of affirmation on a regular basis will live up to those words. Children are especially sensitive to the words of their parents. Be careful what you say AND how you say it.
The attitude behind the words matters as much as the words themselves. One of my ‘go-to sayings’ when frustrated was, “I love my life.” This looks wonderful when written out this way but when I would use it I did so with clenched teeth and frustration. I had a therapist one time tell me to say it until I meant it. I have stopped saying it but I mean it now. I DO love my life. Anything positive said with the wrong attitude is perverted. That ‘gentle tongue’ requires a ‘gentle heart’ to bring life through its words.
Correction, reproof, is hard to take if it is not done with love and by someone you trust or respect. Correction hurts. As a child, the correction I received physically hurt as my parents believed in spankings. They used them correctly, most of the time, and I learned much from them. But my dad never went straight for the belt. He sat us down for what felt like at LEAST an hour to express how much we had disappointed him first. That hurt probably as much as the spanking did. Then he brought out the belt and the point was driven even deeper. I was a strong willed child so it took quite a few times before I REALLY got the message. I eventually learned well the lessons my father taught, or at least how to avoid him seeing my misbehavior again. I’m hoping that makes me one of the prudent instead of a fool.
The “treasure of the righteous” definitely includes the words spoken there. Wisdom, knowledge, understanding, encouragement, and even correction spoken with love produces treasure beyond measure. It makes joyful hearts, builds us individuals, and promotes relationships. Money can’t buy this. This is what I want for my home.
Father God, thank You for Your words. They are life to my bones. They lead and guide me in my daily life. They build me up so I can build up others. Help me Father to watch over my mouth, especially when I’m frustrated. I have a tendency to speak with frustration, even if the words are not hurtful in and of themselves.
Forgive me please Father for being so hard headed. Thank You for never giving up on me, no matter how long it took to get the lesson through my stubbornness.