“Why don’t you try listening first?” my kids asked.
Ouch. Those words struck and halted me in my tracks. I had retorted a response too soon, and immediately felt that pain in the pit of my stomach and a wave of regret.
Have you been there, too? Spoken words too quickly and wish you had not?
It was hard to admit, but it was true. I had jumped to conclusions, and responded too quickly.
Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.
–Proverbs 18:21 The Message
Life or Death
This is some kind of power we’re wielding—a power so loud I can almost hear the thunder rolling behind it, a power humbling and formidable. This muscle, the tongue, can be used to destroy or to build, and it will either be one or the other. Life or Death.
This is the power of words rumbling from mouths of bullies on playgrounds or reverberating from world leaders who call different ethnic groups names.
Each spoken breath possesses this kind of power, to bring life or death. Grasping the potential behind each word I speak, every day—it’s unbelievable, incredible, and haunting. How much life and death is conferred each and every day?
How many relationships have been destroyed, hearts broken, spirits crushed, reputations destroyed, and hatred unleashed because of words? Therein lies the power of death and destruction. We who inhabit this earth walk around stung, maimed, and amputated.
The world is full of hurting word-cut amputees.
Hope Beyond the Carnage
I know I stand on both sides, as one who has been amputated and one who has also wielded the knife. But doesn’t this describe us all?
Yet I also know this: There is hope to move beyond the carnage.
There is hope, because I know this: The Word of God is not subject to the physical laws at work in this world. Hope, new growth, and new life is possible—even after mistakes. Even from pride. Even from the carnage of words.
There is hope to move beyond the carnage.
My words needed to be resurrected. In order for them to be resurrected, they first had to die and be buried. When I buried the desire to speak, I found a spacious place for listening. When I buried my sense of entitlement, I found a spacious place for gratitude. When I’m on the ground, I can stop insisting it’s all about me and on getting the first and last word.
Hope Beyond a Physical Law
Our words are not subject merely to a physical law in the universe. With the choice to offer life-giving words, a greater force is at work I cannot see with my eyes. Love transforms from the inside-out, so that what flows outward takes on the form of life-giving speech, rather than the opposite.
Our words are not subject merely to a physical law.
Love is what offers any kind of ability to choose the better word, in any circumstance—the inward change to ask questions, the desire to be quick to listen and slow to speak, and to recognize, again and again, how little I know.
My words needed to be resurrected. First, they had to be buried.
This is the hope in a world filled with the wounded and bleeding, including ourselves. Life-giving words offer an antidote—a balm that heals, uplifts, encourages, delights.
We possess a strong weapon in our words. A world replete with word-cut amputees needs pulsing, flowing, rich, healing words—words of hope for new limbs, new hopes, new dreams, and new life.
I know how much I need to be down on the ground, in close proximity to the dirt, where I can bury the old self and where the intoxicating power of the tongue can die—and be resurrected.