by Bill Bright
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21 KJV).
Most people do not realize the sheer power for good or for evil that is in the words which they allow to come out of their mouths.
Years ago, while I was a very small boy, a neighbor carelessly and without any thought of harm said some negative words about me that for years had a profound impact upon my thinking. It has been a warning to me of the importance of being careful of the words I use to others.
The negative words by this neighbor affected my self-image. It was some years later that I was able to put it aside. Someone has said, “You don’t count your critics, you weigh them.” When I came to realize that the neighbor was being foolish and careless in his comments, it no longer had any relevance in my life.
A young college girl returned home for Christmas after only one semester in a large Midwestern university. It had been a very difficult time for her, both academically and socially. Her grades were below par and she had been placed on academic probation. Coming from a protective, conservative environment, totally surrounded by church people, she had no knowledge of the looseness and worldly sophistication of the moderns that populate our cities.
Lonely and afraid of peer rejection, she fell for a number of sinful temptations that went against her moral convictions. One morning shortly after returning home, she made an appointment with her pastor. She struggled with herself wondering how to get out the words of confession and her cry for help.
When she arrived at the church office, the pastor invited her in. “How’s our pride and joy?” he inquired warmly. “It will be good to hear how you’ve been doing.”
“I’m a mess,” she blurted. “Between liquor and sex, I can hardly stand myself!”
“What? You, the most stable and mature Christian girl in our church! You should be ashamed of yourself!” he retorted. She leapt from her chair and ran out the door crying.
This insensitive pastor lost his opportunity to be redemptive the moment he demonstrated judgmentalism. His spontaneous outburst of rejection drove the girl completely away. She left the church entirely and turned to a group of self-styled intellectuals for her answers. She went further into sin. We have no record that she ever returned to God and the church.
“Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones” (Prov. 16:24).
Copyright 2002, Bill Bright. All rights reserved.
Dr. Bright is founder and chairman of Campus Crusade for Christ, an organization which began as a campus ministry in 1951 and now has more than 25,000 full-time staff and 553,000 trained volunteer staff in 196 countries in areas representing 99.6 percent of the world’s population.
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