Yep! I did it; I’m guilty. I opened my mouth only to watch little arrows fly through my lips and hit someone square between the eyes. Ouch! That hurts! This is what I like to call the “me and my big mouth” syndrome. Not only did I just hurt someone’s feelings, the Holy Spirit is now convicting me of my transgression. My heart sinks in my chest, my knees get weak and I feel low….really low. What have I done? What is wrong with me? Why can’t I control myself? This is a sad state to be in – especially when I realize that I can’t take back the spoken words. And I can’t make excuses for them either. Now, I need to ask forgiveness of God and the person that I hurt.
Psalm 4:4 says, “In your anger, do not sin.” Everyone experiences anger; even God gets angry. But God’s Word admonishes us not to sin in our anger. I realized over time that I would never be able to accomplish this until I started to allow the Holy Spirit to keep me in self-control with the fruit of the Spirit. I also realized that the more grounded I became in the word of God, remembering verses like the one in James that instructs us to be “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19), the better control I had over my tongue. Let’s face it – there will be many times in life when we will get agitated and our flesh will want to erupt in anger. These times will prove to be some of our toughest testing grounds. Holding our peace and speaking in love reveals our true mettle and growth in the Lord. Being diligent and staying focused always helps but there are times when our minds are so distracted or busy that the slighest provocation can set us off. It is at these times that we need to stop and think long and hard before we open up our mouth. Then when we do speak, the hope is that some of God’s wisdom will flow out and set the situation straight. I know that I have failed the anger test many times in my life, but I feel that I am getting better at it as I get older and become more solid in my walk with God. I am learning not to be so easily provoked by outward or inward stimuli, though sometimes I still get tripped up. I have also found myself speaking less and listening more. Now, when something happens in my life that starts to get me going in the wrong direction, before I react, I stop and pray. I ask the Lord to help me respond to people in a healthy, godly way. Without His strength and help, I am in big trouble!
The Power of Life and Death
Proverbs 18:12 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love to talk will have to eat their own words.” The first thing we learn in this Proverb is that words have tremendous power over our lives and the lives of others. It teaches us that we would all be wise to choose our words carefully. Secondly, it shows us that we will have to give an account for every word we utter (Yikes!) as we will reap the fruit of it. This thought makes me shudder. At least we have been warned about this accounting. What about those people who don’t know that they will have to give an accounting of all the words they have spoken?
Have you ever crossed paths with someone who vents nasty thoughts or complains about everyone they come in contact with? I have. It seems like nothing anyone does can meet these people’s standards. They have an opinion on how everyone should act. Sadly, the people that I have come across that fall into this category seem to be very angry and negative people. Without them even realizing it, they manage to alienate everyone in their life and literally become islands unto themselves. Some of these people may be really charming at first. I have even been duped into thinking it wasn’t their fault that people tended to stay away from them (only to find out the whole story as I got to know them better). What I have learned from these situations is the lack of self-awareness in these types of people. When people lack a self-awareness of their thoughts, words and behaviors, they fail to see that their actions have produced power that is working against them and that the words that are coming out of their mouths have produced death to their personal and working relationships. Lacking in self-awareness when it comes to our words may ultimately end in a sad and lonely existence. This saddens me; no one wants to live in that reality.
The reality is we will all encounter others who injure with their words.
There are people who lie, criticize, judge, degrade, gossip, slander and verbally abuse other people with their tongue. Sadly, they sometimes bring discouragement to the very people who need to be lifted up. Their words have the power to destroy the reputation of others through lies, slander and gossip, bring death to their marriages and to crush the spirit of their children with discouraging, abusive and destructive words. These traits are not pleasing to our mighty God who wills that we bless one another with our words.
When I look back into my own life, I realize that I was guilty of many things. Learning through the years, I now try to encourage and lift people up. I have learned how hard life can be and that there is no merit in increasing hardship for myself or others. We have a choice – we can be a blessing and not a curse to ourselves and others by thinking and speaking godly thoughts. I want so very much to speak life into myself and others by letting the love of God work through me. I know that if I have any inclination to speak badly about anyone or to anyone, I had better get to the root of the problem and settle it right there before it sprouts in a million different directions.
I need to ask what provoked my behavior. Is it anger, jealousy, hurt, deception, bitterness, hatred, intimidation etc.? Whatever the issue is that may be battling deep within us, once we work it out with God and get our heart in the right place, our tongue will follow suit. Matthew 12:30 says, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” The amount of darkness that dwells in our heart will be revealed through the words we speak. I don’t believe that God is judging us on how well we know our Bible or how many times a week we go to church (though obviously these are important things in life). I really think He is looking to see what is in our hearts, if we have grown from His love and if we are treating others how He would treat them.
Only God can remove the darkness in us and fill us with His glorious light. In this new season, this New Year, we have a great opportunity to make a life-altering and life-supporting behavior change – learning to speak out life and not death in every word that comes from our mouth. God’s word states, “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life” (Proverbs 10:11)
Knowing how our words affect other people, how can we protect ourselves from words we hear or words that are directed at us? Some of the most dangerous words spoken to us can be found in classrooms, music, theater, books and magazines, television, the internet, the media, Current Events, religion, etc. We encounter them frequently just going about our day! Many times these vehicles are used to serve agendas that go against the word of God. Many times, they bring death and destruction to our country, our children, our families, our physical and mental health, and our world. Negative messages bring death to all of us, so to protect ourselves, we really need to stay focused on God’s Word and be diligent. If anyone speaks harmful, negative venom to us or our loved ones, we have the power to rebuke it and send it back to the pit of hell where it came from. Our mighty God has given us the power and authority to bind and cast out whatever is speaking death over our lives. We also have the power and authority to speak life into ourselves and everyone else.
Plain and simple – our words have the power of life and death. In this New Year, and from here on out, let us make a resolution or promise to ourselves and to our God, to speak His Word over every person and situation as we watch His power change our world.
“Holding our peace and speaking in love will reveal our true mettle and growth in the Lord.”
Marisa Zeppieri-Caruana can be reached at [email protected]