I have never had a problem with words. As long as I can remember, words have come easily for me. Very rarely, in any situation, am I at a loss as to what to say. (The good people of my church can insert jokes about my preaching length here) But the manner, the tone, the thought, the care by which I deliver those words is often a much different story. And I have learned as I mature in Christ, that the way I say something directly impacts how the message is received.
As they grow older, it has become obvious that my children have received the same gift of words, at least to some degree. Their language skills are showing characteristics of quick wit, creativity and humor. But unfortunately, they have also received my penchant for a sometimes callous and unkind delivery. And the more I have worked to lead them away from this behavior, the more the Holy Spirit has illuminated the same issue in my own life. And I am very thankful for that grace.
‘A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger’ Proverbs 15:1
The Hebrew word behind ‘wrath’ is interesting. It can mean fury or rage, as we would expect. But it is sometimes translated ‘poison’. How many of you have ever been in a poisonous conversation? One that spiraled out of control as one harsh word after another was delivered, like painful blows in a fist fight. And sadly, whatever good message we may have vanishes quickly in the heat of battle. Our point is completely lost; buried under an avalanche of sinful communication. Healing, helpful words of truth are quickly silenced by the painful noise of a cruel voice. It really doesn’t matter how right we are, when the person we are speaking to is reeling from the harshness of our delivery. We lose influence, when we lose control.
The Holy Spirit, through Proverbs, is reminding us that gentle words are a repellent to poisonous conversations. If this is an area of struggle for you – as it is me – then may I suggest seeking scripture for practical advice and thoughts on the importance of words and how we deliver them. The bible has much to say on this topic. In addition, let’s be reminded that one of the effects of the Spirit in our life is gentleness (Gal 5:23), so ask daily that He will allow that fruit to grow quickly and exponentially in you. And finally, if your children are showing signs of your own struggle – then do not just teach them the right way to speak; but model for them repentance in your moments of failure.
Grace and Peace