The power of death - harsh words

Proverbs 15:1b
but a harsh word stirs up anger

Just as a gentle answer gives life, a harsh one has the power of death.

Let's look at how the dictionary defines "harsh" -

ungentle and unpleasant in action or effect; grim or unpleasantly severe; stern; cruel; austere; physically uncomfortable; desolate; stark; unpleasant to the ear; grating; strident; 
unpleasantly rough, ragged, or coarse to the touch

That covers a lot of speech.  From mild ("unpleasant") to severe ("cruel").  Words along this gamut
 have the power to stir up anger...the power of death.

Anger is an emotion that results when some goal of ours is blocked, some desire is unfulfilled.  This might be minor like missing out on a good parking place or quite major such as parental rejection. Most all of us have pockets of unresolved anger submerged somewhere in our hearts.  Harsh words from another person draw it out and stir it up.

Have you ever had the experience of someone reacting to something you said in a seemingly disproportionate way?  You know what I mean - you are having a conversation with your spouse and it turns into a "discussion".  (As in, "we aren't arguing - we are having a discussion".  Am I reading anybody else's mail???)  One of you slips in a "small" jab and the other person erupts.  Seemingly disproportionately.  Now you know why -- that harsh word was like a drone missile that zeroed in on that hidden pocket of anger.  It found its target and stirred it up.

So what's our take-away for today?  First, don't use harsh words.  They carry the power of death.  Seriously.  Jesus connects the dots for us between anger and murder in Matthew 5.  Don't be the source of harsh words - it's a revelation of what's in your heart.  Later in that same book of the Bible, Jesus says "For the mouth speaks out of what fills the heart."  (Matthew 12:34)  Our problem is probably not that we don't know how to's that we have a heart problem instead.

If you use or have used harsh words, go to the ones who have heard them and make it right.  That will carry the power of life.

Last, if you hear those harsh words from someone else, realize that those words (and that person) is not the cause of your anger.  They're just the pot-stirrer.  Don't react to the one stirring the pot - instead, deal with what's inside.

And to keep those harsh words from taking up residence in your heart and possibly producing additional pockets of anger, choose to fill your heart up instead with LIFE-words from THE WORD.