I know of what I speak. This is a lesson learned in the hardest possible way, by wielding my words as a weapon and seeing the injured fall under the weight of them. It is an offense I detest in myself. Oh, to unsay a lifetime of thoughtless words that have pierced my loved ones. But no. Once airborne they cannot be drawn back, and they echo into eternity.
Like a blade, harsh words lay the victim wide. Yet we throw them about with no regard to the pain they cause. Apologize as we might, the damage is done. The wounded, though they forgive us, will nonetheless bear a scar.
If I can enlighten one person to the devastation of this, then these words are not in vain. So dear friends, this is my love letter to you:
I heard you today. You and your little family enjoying a mall lunch at the food court, your children playing in the fountain. So entertaining to watch, such a perfect little family. Then it happened.
I saw the daggers fly from your lips. Straight toward your wife's heart, they hit their target full on. Her shoulders sagged. Your words knocked the wind out of her, visibly crumbling her self-worth. I don't believe you realize the power of your words.
Like a snake, your criticism wrapped around her, crushing her spirit. Your assessment of her inadequacies was like a knife. You were probably trying to motivate her, but you shamed her instead. Though only a onlooker, your words stung me too. I'm sure you love her, I can see that you love her, but you wield your words like a club. I fear you will beat her to death with them.
Still, behind the hurt in her eyes, I could see that she adores you. She thinks you hung the moon. Young man, prove it's true. Be the person she thinks you are. Walk in grace and integrity, curb your tongue.
You are called to be her protector, her safe place, not her judge, not her jury. Not one more voice in a world of voices that tramples her down. A gift to you, she was created from God's own heart, made beautiful inside and out. He knows and loves her as she is right now, just as he does you.
I'm sure it would shock you, if someone told you how you sound. But, be it adult or child, if there is little feeling of acceptance, understanding and respect between two people, if one is hurting, is belittled or mocked by the other; "can't you do anything right?", "you're so lazy", "are you an idiot?" that person is verbally battered.
Some would justify, "Being nice doesn't work. They've got to learn to take it. I'm doing it for their own good, to help them become a better person." But another might ask, does verbal abuse ever make someone a better, healthier person? Does it ever enrich the relationship? Does it ever show love?
For some unfathomable reason, we seem to be the hardest on the ones we love the most. To our family we often speak with severity, using words we would never utter to a friend, an acquaintance, or a even a stranger. Why do we have this need to be judge over another? Why the desire to "fix" our loved ones, to point out their shortcomings, when we should be working our own?
How confusing, the heart. How devious the tongue. (you can read more on this: James 3:2-12)
But of course, thankfully, there is a wonderfully redeeming flip-side. The tongue can speak joy and peace as healing as any balm. Soothing, they bless both the hearer and the speaker. Sweet words make our hearts sing. Words of affirmation and acceptance build us up. They help us stand taller and make us feel loved and appreciated, safe and warm. They beget kind words in return. They teach our children the power of kindness.
Something harshness can never do, words of encouragement easily accomplish, for they cause us to bloom. Like spring rain, they create in us a desire to grow, to reach for the sky. To be our best. And it's in this process that we all become richer, fuller and more complete.
What a contrast. Words can cut or they can heal. Bring pain or comfort, sadness or joy. Death and life it seems, are in the power of the tongue.