As we all know, words can be either helpful or harmful.
It is extremely important for everyone to examine the content of their speech before they let their thoughts escape their lips. While this is a lesson that most people should have learned at an early age, unfortunately there are many individuals who are quite careless about the things they say. Sometimes those of us who try to be careful in this area can be capable of accidentally offending someone, or simply saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Within the confines of human nature, it is a difficult challenge to tame the tongue.
Let’s take a look at five reasons why it is necessary for us to eat our words on a daily basis:
- Words are verbal symbols of objects or actions.
What most people seem to forget is the simple fact that words are tools to represent things. As an avid lover of the English language, I thoroughly understand the truth that all words have a very distinct, specific meaning. Therefore, it confuses me to no end when I hear people around me using profanity, since those words are usually unpleasant. This is especially true when I hear people using curse words that refer to bodily functions or other vulgar things that should never be mentioned. Instead of preaching at those who commonly use profanity, I would just ask them one question: Would you still use those disgusting words if the objects they represent literally came out of your mouth?
Think about it – would you really want something nasty to emerge from your mouth just because you weren’t being careful about what you were saying? I know it’s a bit of an extreme metaphor, but it’s an accurate depiction of what occurs when people choose to use vulgar profanity. Once a particular bad word is spoken, an image of the object it represents is planted in the mind of the person who hears it, just because of its common association. The result is a distasteful mental picture, all because one person did not make any effort to use decent, polite vocabulary. Instead of resorting to using profanity to express yourself, try to challenge yourself to use accurate, precise vocabulary words for the sake of being courteous to those around you.
2. Words can stay in people’s minds for the rest of their lives.
I believe that everyone who has ever lived has been guilty of saying something they shouldn’t have in a heated moment of anger, or at the very least speaking without thinking how it will affect someone else first. While you can always apologize for something you said to another person, your apology may not necessarily guarantee their forgiving you. Even if they do the honorable thing by forgiving you, it is unlikely that they will forget what you said to them anytime soon. No matter how much time might pass, or what you might try to do to compensate that person, the damage has already been done, and there is nothing you can do to reverse any emotional scars your words might have caused. It makes no difference whether you said something in haste or not; once spoken, your words can never be taken back.
While every person has the ability to make their own choices in life, hurtful words can still affect the outcome of a person’s decisions. Since most people are born with a natural desire to please others and be accepted, anything and everything they are told can be taken to their heart, whether they like it or not. Man’s opinions are fickle things; but how a person’s heart and mind responds to those opinions is not easily changed. The truth is, all people are sensitive deep down, even if they make an effort not to show it. Therefore, it is highly important that we show the utmost respect to everyone around us by being very careful with the things we say to them, since we never know how strongly our words might affect them.
3. Words and the way we use them define who we are as people.
Whenever you hear someone speaking with an accent, you can usually tell where they are from, especially if it is a very strong accent. The same thing applies to the words we use – our speech allows others to determine our level of education, our cultural background, and our character. Of course, for every occasion there is an appropriate style of formality in which we should use our speech. For example, the type of casual conversation you would carry with your friends at a party is quite different from the professional way of speaking that would be expected of you at a job interview. Instead of laughing it up and joking around with a potential employer, you would want to portray yourself in the most polished, refined way possible. Doing so will cause them to perceive you as mature and respectful. You should want your words to benefit you in all of life’s many different situations.
Also, the words you use every day will give your community a reflection of your testimony. If your words are positive, uplifting, helpful, and kind, then people will be more likely to say good things about you. If your words are negative, discouraging, contrary, and unkind, however, then people will be more inclined to say bad things about you. However, it is important to use good words for the sake of your own testimony, since people will always tend to criticize you no matter what you do or say. Your testimony in your local community is quite valuable, especially if you claim to be a Christian. The things you say are ultimately a reflection of the contents of your heart, as the Bible says. As a Christian, you are an ambassador for Christ to the world around you. Keeping your speech pure and your words honorable is one of the best ways to make God’s light shine brightly from your heart.
4. Words used in the appropriate time and context can be very powerful.
You’ve probably heard the saying “silence is golden” before. The main reason that phrase is so humorous and popular is because most of the time, the world around us is incredibly noisy! There are people who love to talk, and then there are those who just love to hear themselves talk. It doesn’t take very long to discern the difference between someone who is sociable and someone who is domineering. Sadly, many people think that for their friendships to last, they must be with someone who loves to talk just as much as they do, labeling any others who have a more quiet nature as “boring.” This unfortunate misunderstanding comes from these people choosing quantity over quality. It is far better to use fewer words in a meaningful way than to talk excessively and make white noise.
For example, if you have friends who are going through a very stressful situation in their lives, they would find you to be much more helpful to them by just listening to their problem instead of volunteering your input. Remaining silent as they tell you about the difficult time they’re experiencing is better than trying to fix their problem without knowing all the facts. However, your friends would be extremely grateful to you if you said something encouraging, genuine, and heartfelt to them once they are through explaining their rough circumstances to you. You never know just how much your appropriately timed words might mean to them while they are fervently seeking for hope in their life.
5. Words are a gift from God, and should be used to honor Him, not disrespect Him.
All language and forms of communication are direct gifts from God, and serve as evidence that we are all created in His divine image. However, because man chose to rebel against God back in the garden of Eden, he tainted the divine image in which he was created with sin, losing his former respect for God and taking the gift of language for granted. Because of this lack of respect for God, man began to take God’s holy Name in vain, exchanging its powerful association for a common curse word. Of course, God was not pleased by this whatsoever; and as a result of man’s wickedness, He made one of the Ten Commandments say, “Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain.” Apparently it was such a prevalent issue back in Bible times that God literally had to set it in stone. Sadly, it is still a huge problem today, even with many Christians. God’s Name should only be used in a respectful way when people are talking to Him in prayer or praising Him.
When people take God’s Name in vain, they are forgetting that He is a real Person with feelings and emotions just like we have. Taking God’s Name in vain is essentially the same thing as hearing someone call out your name, only to hear them say “Never mind,” when you reply. Imagine if someone kept repeating your name many times, and each time you say “What?” the person just says “Nothing,” for the sole purpose of annoying you. You would most likely be tempted to lose your temper with them for wasting your time. Well, that’s how God feels every time someone decides to take His Name in vain as profanity. Most importantly, it offends God because people are using His powerful, holy Name as a cheap way of sinning, by turning it into a form of corrupt communication known as cursing. The blameless Name of God Almighty should never in any way be associated with the very thing He detests the most – sin. God specifically warns people in His Word that He will not hold people guiltless who take His Name in vain. A much better alternative to say is the word “goodness” in place of the perfect, pure Name of God.
Here are God’s own Words to help us to make better choices in selecting our words:
Ephesians 4:29 ~ “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”
Ephesians 5:4 ~ “Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.”
Proverbs 25:11 ~ “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”
Proverbs 16:24 ~ “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”
Exodus 20:7 ~ “Thou shalt not take the Name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh His Name in vain.”
Psalm 12:6 ~ “The words of the LORD are pure words; As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times.“
1 Corinthians 10:31 ~ “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
2 Corinthians 10:5 ~ “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”
Matthew 12:36-37 ~ “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.“
James 3:6 ~ “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.”
Proverbs 21:23 ~ “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.”
2 Timothy 2:14 ~ “Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers.”
Luke 6:45 ~ “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.“
Colossians 4:6 ~ “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”
What’s the flavor of the words you’re using?
Now that we’ve discussed five reasons we should eat our words, we should be more conscious about the flavor of the words we speak. Just like people prefer sweet and salty flavors with real food, Christians have the best tasting speech when their words match those same flavors also. Just like a chocolate-covered pretzel, we should be sweet to others around us by showing God’s love in our words, but also salty by preserving our Christian testimony when people ask us about our faith. Don’t be like some Christians whose words taste like vinegar due to their bitterness; but rather a perfect balance of good flavors to edify and build up the people in your life. So before you serve other people a meal made of your thoughts, make sure you taste and swallow them in your mind first! The Master Chef of course should be the Holy Spirit inside you, Who will let you know whether or not he approves of the way your words taste. Don’t feel discouraged, as this subject is something ALL of us must work on daily, myself included. If I can refine my speech with God’s help, then I know that you can too; you just have to trust Him and believe in His amazing power.
– Gloria D. Hopkins