Recently, I observed a child be wounded by critical words from an adult.  You can imagine the ire I felt inside.  Rather than pulling out my voodoo dolls like I wanted to, I tried to reflect. I prayed that the child would be able to work through it and that the unfounded words would not take root in the child's life.

But I know the odds for that are slim.  The power of life and death are in the tongue.  And the words we hear bring either life or death to us.   Why do we, who should know better, do such things?

In my reflection, I recalled several recent incidents on social media where words brought death. I'm not referring to ones in the national media or posts from middle school mindsets. I'm thinking about ones in my own news feed.  Words from mature, responsible, otherwise kind, Christian adults. Words that I doubt these same folks would say in face to face conversations.  Yet somehow the screen becomes a buffer that permits us to criticize institutions, companies, even people with unChristlike candor and ill-tempered attacks.  Criticism and complaints that spread death not only to the landlord of the comment line nor even just the associates in the FB friend pool but also way beyond, sweeping into unintended areas, like a wildfire out of control. The "share" button becomes an accomplice of death.

Continuing my reflection, I thought about the impact I had witnessed of such words.  People distancing themselves from the word-source....and the tweeter probably never even knowing why.  Teenagers modeling such behavior in retaliation...and the wildfire continues to spread.  Folks absorbing the words and believing lies about themselves....which adversely affects behavior.

But I hadn't considered the other impact that such words have.  The inevitable one.   Proverbs 18:21 tells us.  Notice the last phrase.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue,And those who love it will eat its fruit.  

Not only the words that we hear bring life or death to ourselves but so do the words that we speak!  Eating the fruit of the tongue.  We are what we eat.

Critical words, words that bring death, poison the well of the speaker.  We become like the words we speak.  We spread the wildfire to places we cannot control, places we never intended, and especially to our own hearts.  When we air our disappointments and displeasure and disagreements on seemingly distant Facebook, we mistakenly think that our "vent" is letting off steam and helping us work through our issues. We think we'll feel better once we "get this off our chest". Actually, we are instead contaminating our hearts further. When we carelessly lash out at one another, we are not bringing solutions to the problem we think we are addressing.  Eating the fruit of our tongue means that we ingest either life or death....and we eventually become what we eat.

I wanted this post to be about that adult whose words hurt that child.  Or about the FB ranters who sling arrows at companies and institutions and other people through cyberspace.  But it's not.  It's about my own heart.  The heart that wanted to hurl insults back at that cavalier adult. Not to defend or soothe the child, mind you, but words to inflict pain upon the adult  The heart that thought up several FB comments in response to the injurious posts, words that at least would let them know I was offended, if not also to retaliate the offense.  By God's grace, I didn't give in to my heart but I know those thoughts and feelings are there.  And that makes me no different from those I wanted to call out in this post.  My heart has been poisoned by my words, too.

We are not condemned to death, though.  We can choose life.  God sets before us the choice - life or death. I pray I will consistently choose life.  May God grant me the grace to be so full of His life that my tongue bears the same fruit....so that as I eat, seeds of LIFE will be sown in the not only the lives of those around me but also in my own.  Amen.