I knew from the time I was a teenager that life and death are in the power of the tongue. What I didn’t know, was that this was in the Bible. It was something I learned when my words became a defense mechanism. When I was young, I had a well-developed vocabulary for my age. I’ve always been witty and I grew in the fine art of sarcasm.
While I felt inferior to most of my peers in almost every way, I felt superior to them in my words. I saw how I could affect someone with what I said. Sometimes I used that gift for good, to encourage or to make people laugh. Often times I used my gift for evil, to insult and ridicule. I never struck first, after all I didn’t want to hurt people, however when I did strike back it was to utterly decimate. That way they’d think twice about trying again.
I never really cared about the destruction that I caused. In fact, I bragged about it. The times that I actually made someone cry with my words were cause for celebration. Of course, the only thing this really accomplished was to expose the pain and blackness in my heart; after all, it is out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
There were few exceptions to this. A very select, few people that I cared about and trusted were usually spared my bite. Usually, I didn’t even have to think about it, I simply spared them. One day however, a friend approached me in a very good mood, and said, “The sky is blue and the birds are singing”. She was young, and in love, and was having a really good day. I wasn’t though. Without missing a beat, my response was, “The sky is gray and the birds are dead”. I thought it was funny, but she was crushed. After nearly 20 years, I can still see the look on her face.
After that time, I really did try to think before I spoke. I started taking less pleasure in hurting with my words. It did still happen sometimes, but not as often. I found myself using my gift for good more often than I did for evil. I loved to make people laugh, and I found that I was good at encouraging others. I also found that I could keep my mouth shut.
Years later, I came back to the Lord (I knew Him as a child). He’s been so gracious to me and has helped me to really let go of the need to use my words as a defense mechanism. I couldn’t tell you when I last used my words to hurt someone deliberately. I know that sometimes I can still cause pain when I speak, but I usually recognize it quickly and try to make amends immediately. Now if I hurt someone with my words it affects me deeply.
I have learned the importance of choosing the words that I speak. I try to be mindful of whether I am speaking life or death. It is now with equal measure, that I am as happy to be using my words to give life, as I am deeply ashamed of the way they used to bring death. I am grateful that God has given me the opportunity to use my gift for good. I am humbled and amazed that He would use my words to touch the lives of others and point them to Him. For any good that I do now with the words that I speak, to Him belongs the glory. For any harm that I do now with the words that I speak, it is to my heart belongs the pain.
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” ~ Psalm 19:14
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