by Jan Silvious


If you are like me, you never bought into the lie that, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." I never believed that when I was a little girl. I was hurt a lot more by words than I was ever hurt by sticks or stones. As I have gotten older, I now realize the truth: There are more hearts broken by words than bones broken by sticks and stones.

James says, "We all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well" (3:2 NASB).

You know, I can't help what people say to me, nor can you. And according to the Scripture, it's not the easiest thing in the world to control what we say to other people. But we can surely choose to say what is appropriate and kind and, as we grow, surely we will get better at it.

Here are some thoughts I am trying to keep in mind when I open my mouth. Maybe you'd like to join me in the excercise:

1. Your words set the atmosphere. I have a sign at home that says, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." That's so true. I have set the atmosphere for my whole family at times when I didn't realize I was doing it. I recently fussed about some mud that had been tracked in the house. And although it was not such a big deal to me, just a minor irritation, I could tell by the looks on everyone's faces, I had really been heavy handed about a little mud. My words had ruined the atmosphere.

2. Your words are remembered longer than your actions. My parents have always done a lot for me. They have been good to me and have been generous with me. But, over the years, I remember their words of encouragement and assurance far more than anything they ever gave me.

How will people remember you? What kind of words are stuck in their minds? No gift, no money, no trip will ever make up for unkind words.

3. Your words show what is inside of you. James says, "Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be" (James 3:10). What happens when you are bumped? What comes out of you when you are inconvenienced? What do you say when someone makes a mistake at your expense? Whatever comes out has already been in your mind. It is no mistake.

When you are shocked at your own words and you really want to change, from my experience, there is but one way you can begin to get control of your tongue. Psalm 19:14 is a prayer that says, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer." If the meditations of your heart, the things you think about, are acceptable to God, then you can believe that your words will be, too. Whatever is in your cup will come out when you are tipped!

Well, my friend, this is heavy-duty. It makes me so accountable. And, now that you have read it, you are accountable too. Won't it be wonderful when we mature to the point when we can control our tongues? And, although it may be one of the hardest things you will ever do, why not begin today by asking God to control the meditations of your heart. Oh that you and I might have thoughts and words that are acceptable in God's sight.

From The 5-Minute Devotional

© Zondervan 1991

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