Our Words Matter

By Pastor Shonica David

I couldn’t take it back.

In a split second, I spewed out words and shared out of frustration. The words, and unfortunately, my tone, was not as kind, and I couldn’t take them back. In that instant, I decided that I didn’t feel like holding my tongue because, well, I tried it and it wasn’t working to my satisfaction. In the end, it resulted in hurt feelings, having to clean up the mess that I began, distance with my friend, and then having to address my sin and work to rebuild our friendship.

Looking back, I would have re-scripted that entire experience with my friend and worked on a more peaceful, loving approach to address my frustration and hurt. Instead, in a matter of seconds, I had put a temporary dent in a friendship that I truly treasured, and that process of rebuilding is so tough. However, with the Lord’s help, forgiveness can be so sweet.

I wish that I could proudly proclaim that this was the only time something like this happened, but sadly that’s not the case. I’ve had a couple of other friend situations and scenarios that stemmed from either their words hurting me or my response to hurtful words flowing from my frustrated heart. Here’s the good news- if you’ve ever struggled like I do, the Lord graciously gives us help when we turn this over to Him.

Throughout Scripture, there are passages that highlight the power of our words. James spends time focusing on our words. He shares a remarkably simple, pointed, and action-oriented reminder to those of us who may struggle with this. I actually memorized this passage as a high schooler because I knew that I struggled and that I needed this on my heart to help guide my words.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19

Yikes! Slowing down and spending time to both listen and to not lash out when I’m upset or angry means that I have to be proactive. Maybe I have to step away from a scenario to diffuse my emotions and to sort through my response. Or maybe I put in some headphones and listen to music until my heart is in a better place. Or I could kindly say, “I don’t think we can talk about this now, because this isn’t the right time.”

Then I can spend some focused time praying for the situation and my response. Afterwards, I can take the time to revisit the scenario, when I’m at a place where we can encourage someone with a productive conversation.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29

I am repeatedly reminded that our words matter. As believers, our words can and should be life-giving. It’s so simple but incredibly vital to live this out as we navigate the relationships in our lives. This matters to those we engage with at work, the parents on your child’s athletic team, or even with your least-favorite neighbor. Let’s not forget about our social media posting and our interactions within our family—all of our words matter. You could be engaging with someone who doesn’t know Christ or someone who needs hope during a stressful or difficult day. Your words are a witness and window to your heart.

It takes work to guide your words but it’s worth it! We are called to honor the Lord with our words. Together, let’s pray that we’re using our words wisely wherever the Lord places us in order to provide hope and love and to share God’s truth to the world around us.

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