The Beauty of Words
Words are beautiful. Without words, our life would have been very limited and confusing. Because we have words, we can communicate what’s in our minds. That itself is a blessing. Communicating how we feel, and what we desire – that is a blessing. Because we have words, we can understand what is called the truth.
Our civilization would not have been possible without words. Because we have words, our civilization could have advanced and progressed. We could share our thoughts with each other and build a better life together.
Because we have words, we can understand God. God is God of words. God communicated to us through the words. Jesus is the Word Incarnate. In that sense, words are God’s gift for us so that we may be able to interact with God and have more meaningful and fuller life.
Right words spoken at the right time can help people tremendously. Right words can even save them. Words of encouragement, words of challenge, words of truth can awaken people, give them hope and inspire them to persevere through hardships.
I am so honoured to be a minister of the Word. I communicate the word of God and God gives me the Word to communicate. That is very special for me. I have seen many people change, experience transformation, and start a new life through words. Just the other day, I received a text of “thank you” from a person that I have been helping for about two years. I am so glad that I could be of help to him when he went through difficult times. Words can be powerful when they are used in the right way.
Power of Words
James expressed the power of words in this way,
Look at ships: though they are so large that it takes strong winds to drive them, yet they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great exploits. (James 3:4, 5)
Words can set a new direction of our lives. That was what happened to John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist. He confessed his change in this way.
“In the evening, I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
He heard the words and they changed him. He found a new direction of life.
God can use his words and our words to uplift each other and bring about changes.
BUT AT THE SAME TIME, words can be quite dangerous. They can be powerful in a negative way.
The tongue of the wicked is like the bite of a poisonous snake. (Ps. 140:3)
The bite of a poisonous snake! What an accurate image!
Words can have detrimental effect on people. They can destroy people.
James also warns us in this way,
How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. (James 3:5, 6)
Our words of accusation, judgment, and condemnation can hurt deeply people who are vulnerable. We can destroy the spirits of other people. Our words can be hurtful, harmful, and poisonous. Verbal abuse is as serious as physical abuse. It can leave emotional damage and scar as deeply as the physical abuse if not more. Our words that come from our prejudice, our own darkness and our unhappiness can poison the souls of other people.
Cultivating Our Tongue
We have our own darkness and inner struggle within us. When they are expressed in a raw form, what we say can be poisonous.
So we have to be extremely careful what we say and how we say what we say and when we say it. Right words are not always right words. Depending on when you say them and to whom you say them, they can be wrong words.
So cultivating our tongue is important but it is not as easy as you think. Cultivating our tongue is like cultivating our whole existence. When our minds are distorted, our tongue will be crooked. When our minds are manipulative, our tongue will be deceiving.
When our minds are pure, our tongue will be sweet. When our minds are holy, our tongue will be inspiring.
From dark minds, dark words will come out. From corrupted minds, filthy words will come out. From divisive minds, divisive words will come out. So it is hard to cultivate our tongue. That’s why James said,
For all of us make many mistakes. Anyone who makes no mistakes in speaking is perfect, able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. (James 3:2)
…but no one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3:8)
If your tongue makes no mistake, you are perfect. But we are not perfect. So, we realize that we all make mistakes. Sometimes with words, we hurt each other. We disappoint each other. We damage each other. At one moment, we are so uplifting and encouraging. But next moment, we forget all that. We are so insensitive and ignorant.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh. (James 3:10-12)
Our double mindedness can be seen in our being double-tongued. That is our reality but not the reality just to accept but the reality to overcome.
We need to cultivate our mind, our heart, and our tongue. Cultivating our tongue is not just to COVER UP. We often use our words to cover up who we really are and what we are thinking. That is not cultivating our tongue. That is to masquerade and practice our deceitfulness.
Let us not use words to manipulate others, either to make them like us, or take advantage of them. In front of them, we say nice words and turn around we gossip and say critical words. Learn to speak from the heart. Say things you really mean. Say things from who you are.
Cultivating our tongue is to cultivate purity. Pure hearts of serving others and loving others. We have to make it as our goal and practice it every day. Our minds manifest themselves in our tongue but also our tongue governs our minds. You have to teach your children how to use good words. Memorize the good words. Let them be in your consciousness. And teach your children. (Baptism)
Disciplining Our Speech
As you practice this, the words you use will change. God will help us. Disciplining our speech is God’s gift. God will give us the words. I have developed a skill to listen with a prayerful heart. Then God gives me the words to speak. I don’t say much while counseling. But God gives me the word. Sometimes I don’t speak at all because I don’t need to. St. Francis said,
“Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.
Discipline of tongue is sometimes the discipline of listening.
When people say negative things, I know that they need to deposit their darkness, their struggles somewhere. I just become a sponge so that their darkness can be contained temporarily within me so that they can have some relief. That’s hard sometimes. Very exhausting. Listen with empathy. Don’t say words with judgment. Pray and find words God gives.
Especially when you are emotionally charged up, be careful. Don’t say out of anger. Always try to speak from love. You will find good words to speak. Let us cultivate our minds, our hearts, and our tongue.