This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.
As I’ve taken the past few weeks to be silent pretty often, it’s been a good time to think about the words I do actually say out loud.
We tend, as well-meaning adults, mentors, Christians, and friends, to offer advice (usually unsolicited) or counsel. We offer opinions (however squirrelly that gets in the moment) and ideas, agreements and rebuttals. We speak all sorts of words that are just plain unnecessary.
Let me explain.
The Bible shows us from the first few pages that words have power. I mean, God created the world, light, darkness, not to mention us, by just breathing words out of His mouth (Genesis 1, y’all). And then, He did the incredible thing: He created us in His image. WE are created in the very likeness of a God whose words have creation power! Even the penman of Psalm 33 proclaims the power in verse 6 – “By the word of the Lord, the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth, all their host.” The numberless stars were spoken into existence by a creative and powerful God – in whose likeness we were also made!
So why is it that, sometimes without our even realizing it, we speak fear, confusion, hurt, and unkindness over many, even the ones we love the most? It’s like we forget this God-given gift of words with power. It’s almost as if we – wait for it – speak without thinking! Before you stop reading because you’re thinking I’m a hypocrite, I most certainly am. But keep reading, please.
It’s as simple as remembering when we saw Disney’s Bambi as children: Thumper famously says, “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” And yes, it was RIGHT AFTER hurling a good-natured insult at Bambi. But don’t we all do that? We say the hurtful thing, and THEN we remember that it might be have consequences, even those we won’t see for a while.
But even more than saying things that are “nice”, I think we’re called to say things that have more power. Instead of saying something that could tear someone down or shame them, let’s say something that will build them up, call them up, call them higher. Jess Connolly puts it this way in her book Dance, Stand, Run: “…I think if we spent more of our time attempting to speak life, we wouldn’t have to worry as much about the death coming out when we’re not being watchful.” If we turned a little bit of our efforts over to actively speaking life, love, encouragement and value into people, how much less of our words would be hurtful ones that spoke death to dreams and fear into places that should be full of confidence?!
Let’s end with this: our words are really, really important. Use them wisely. Say less of them, if that suits you. Think before you say your words; think about what will be heard by the recipient. Above all, speak life.