“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)
The joy of potty training. My little nephew is learning to go “pee-pee” on the potty. Every hour, my sister runs him to the bathroom, strips him down and puts him on the pot, hoping to catch him before it’s too late. With great determination and focus, that little boy wills any ounce he can out of himself, and when he is successful, he and his momma shout, “Yay! Pee-pee!” Oh, the words that encourage!
But how many times do our words do the opposite? How many times do the expressions from our mouths destroy the joy and hope of others? How many times, without even thinking, do we allow our tempers or egos to determine what falls from our lips? While it is true no man can tame the tongue, it doesn’t give us the excuse to be careless with our words.
As a mom of two young boys myself, I can regretfully recall the times I failed to use encouraging words. I remember seeing the pain in their eyes as my cruel tone and imprudent words crushed their spirit. I never intended to hurt them – or anyone I loved – but I allowed my emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion to dictate my tongue. I wanted to give my boys support and build them up, but hasty comments and senseless words often did the opposite.
It’s incredible to think how much power our words contain. They can be used to shape and mold a person or situation, and they can be used to tear someone down, or build someone up. What’s scarier to ponder, is the idea that our words influence those around us, even when they are not directed at that person. How many times do I speak poorly of others in front of my children – or anyone for that matter? How many times do I allow garbage to spew from my mouth – like my opinion is the only one that matters? How many times did God present me with an opportunity to use words that would build, but instead, I chose words that left someone feeling empty and worthless?
What if instead, I took the time to think about my words before I opened my mouth? What if I made a point to choose my words more carefully? What if I truly appreciated the power my words possessed? What if, in those moments when I’m exhausted, frustrated, hurt, and angry, instead of opening my mouth to let out words of destruction, I bite my tongue? What if, in those instances, instead of thinking I know best, I shut my mouth and pray instead?
The Bible says, “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.” Ephesians 4:29 (The Message) I love the last part of this verse, “each word a gift”. What if we began choosing our words more meticulously – the way we do when we are choosing a gift for a loved one? What would our world begin to look like?
If I could give you one gift today, simply by the words I use, would that gift build you up and make you feel encouraged? If not, what is it in my heart that needs to change? Jesus said, “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart…” (Matthew 15:18). Ouch.
I know it’s difficult to bite our tongues or hold back our frustration, but that is what God is calling us to do. He has given us the means to support one another and build each other up, just by the power of our words. Imagine how our words could inspire those around us…even when we think others aren’t listening. “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24.
Please forgive me for the times when my words are unkind. Please help me to recognize the power of my words and teach me to use only language that encourages and builds others up. I know I cannot do this on my own, but trust that You will intervene in those moments when I can’t control my own tongue. Thank You for loving me…potty mouth and all. Please continue to work in my heart, so that others will see the good work you have started in me.