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.


Sometimes the best word we can speak is to say nothing at all.  Check out these bits of wisdom from Proverbs 17:

vs. 10 -
Whoever covers an offense seeks love    but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
14 The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
    so quit before the quarrel breaks out.

 27 Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
    and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
28 Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
    when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.

Let's keep quiet sometimes...........we might look wise!

Have you heard....

When I was a little girl, a popular TV show had a segment where a group of girls sang a song that went something like this "You'll never catch one of us repeating you'd better be sure and listen close the first time!"  Hee-Haw.  Made us laugh every time we saw it.

It's not so funny being the victim of gossip, though.  Can you relate??

God makes it very clear that He hates gossip.  He lists it among murder and pride and lying in Proverbs 6:16-19 --
There are six things the Lord hates – no, seven things he detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord among brothers.

The dictionary defines gossip as "idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others".  OK, so what's "idle talk"?  Since Scripture warns us about such, we should know what it is.

But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.  Matthew 12:36

Gulp.  This sounds serious indeed. And it is.  Gossip, or idle talk, consists of things said about other people that are not profitable to the subject, the hearer, or the speaker.

  Gossip is sometimes lies sprinkled with some truth.  Words that cause the hearer to think less of the person being "discussed" .  Words that destroy relationships.  Murder reputations.  Other times, the juicy morsels are all lies.  And irreparable damage is done. But sometimes, gossip consists of things that are true but would have been better left unsaid.  Words that are not profitable for the one being discussed. Secrets shared that should have never been disclosed.

Take a look at these verses with me:

 Proverbs 16:28,  A troublemaker stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.

A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue. A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret  Proverbs 11:12-13.

I've done it.  Maybe you have, too.  Shared some information that was of no benefit to the hearer or the subject.  It's almost comical how we do it.  "Did you hear that..." or "I don't know if this is right but I heard..."  My personal UNfavorite is the one thinly disguised as a prayer request - "I know you'll want to be praying about this....".  Super spiritual for sure.

I don't know why we are tempted to do it.  When we do, we have fallen prey to the deception that such "sharing" will be beneficial to US.  That by tearing someone else down, we will look bigger. But that's the biggest lie of all.  We not only do damage to others with our gossipy words, but we also destroy our own selves.

Maybe we will be motivated to curb our gossipy tongue when we remember the truth of Proverbs 18:21 -
  Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits 

We will enjoy the fruit of life-giving words.  Or we will reap the consequences of death-inducing words.

My Mama says it this way "What goes around, comes around."

Amen, Mama.  Amen.

The power of life - adding value

Proverbs 25:11
A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver

Doesn't this conjure up a beautiful picture for you?  Golden apples encased in silver settings.  Beautiful.  Valuable.  Rare.

"A word fitly spoken".  Notice it's not "a word spoken in a fit"!  Rather, a word fitly spoken.  A word that is appropriate in its message and delivery...and timing.

What's a "fit" message?  One that meets the need of the TRUTH. One without assumption or presumption.  TRUTH.  It might be words of affirming praise or it might be difficult precepts but if it is TRUTH, it can still be valuable to the hearer. Not flattery, for that is a word spoken in order to send benefit back to the speaker.  Nor is it true words misapplied. (Been there.  Said that.  Heard that, too.  UGH) Instead,  Truth appropriate for the moment.  Apples of gold.

A word fit in delivery.  Even if the message is truth, if we don't deliver it in love, it is not beautiful or valuable to the hearer.  "Fitly spoken" includes the tone of voice, the words chosen,  the facial expression (gulp), and the body language. Some studies indicate that up to 93 percent of communication effectiveness is determined by nonverbal cues.  Delivery matters.  Settings of silver.

As important as the message and the delivery is the timing.  Oh how important is the timing!  Too many times I have delivered the message of truth to one of my the wrong time.  There have probably been times I have delivered too late but mostly, I'm too early.  Giving them what they need to hear when they are not prepared to hear it is counterproductive.  Learning to wait until the time is right requires patience and self-control and wisdom. 

But when the message is true, delivered with love, at the right time, oh what a treasure for the hearer!  Words fitly spoken can shape a life.  My husband will never forget an uncle's specific compliments about his public speaking abilities...from over 40 years ago.  Little wonder that he chose a career that capitalizes on that talent.  I can recall with delight apples of gold that were delivered to me in settings of silver...and some specific ones that kept me teaching...or parenting...or walking with Jesus.  Even words from strangers. 

A word fitly message, in delivery, in timing...apples of gold in settings of silver.  Let's plant some apple seeds today!