Bad Words, Good Words

The Power of Your Words

Have you considered the power of your words this week? Every time you speak, your words are doing things. Bad words do bad things, and good words do good things. Your words either discourage or encourage the person you address. They either damage them or build them up.

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: And they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. (Prov. 18:21)

The bad, dishonest, hurtful things you say destroys individual people (Prov. 11:9). And they also damage and destroy larger groups of people – whether a family, a church, a work team, a classroom or an entire city (Prov. 11:11). This is very sobering.

At the same time, the good, honest, uplifting things you say encourage individual people, refreshing and invigorating their spirit like a well of cool, refreshing water (Prov. 10:11). And they also nourish larger groups of people who are hungry for an encouraging word, as a loaf of warm, fresh bread feeds a table filled with hungry guests.

So what is your tongue doing today, for the people living and working beside you? And what is your tongue doing today to strengthen or weaken your family and church? And what is it doing to bring death or life to the city or town where you reside?

To learn more about the kind of things we say that bring death or life to people around us, consider Ephesians 4:29-5:1.

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers (Eph. 4:29).

These verses summarize for us some corrupt things we can say that hurt and destroy people. And they also summarize some good things we can say that encourage and build up the people around us.

Bad Words that Destroy

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice (Eph. 4:31).

This sentence reveals five kinds of words that hurt other people.

  1. Words of bitterness – subtle (or not so subtle) tones and hints of sarcasm, resentment and irritation
  2. Words of wrath – occasional, sudden outbursts of frustration and displeasure
  3. Words of anger – lingering, regular words of bad temper, annoyance and growing hatred
  4. Words of clamor – shouting and screaming at a higher volume than usual, beyond an occasional outburst
  5. Words of evil speaking – malicious words that impugn and damage the reputation of a person in public

As you look at this list, do you notice a progression? Do you notice an increase of intensity and negative impact? Can you identify the kind of bad and destructive language that may describe your words at times? In either case, these kind of words are corrupt. They hurt, damage and destroy the people in their mind and spirit.

You may have noticed that I did not include “all malice” in the list of bad words. Why? Because malice is an escalated form of bad, harmful personal expression that is more than words. It includes actual physical blows. Hitting, punching and other physical harm and abuse occurs when the anger in a persons heart advances to the highest degree. Knowing this, you should learn to recognize when your words towards another person are intensifying from bitterness, to wrath and beyond. And learn to give your frustrations and cares over to Jesus Christ so that you do not eventually harm someone physically.

Good Words that Encourage

And be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

This sentence reveals three kinds of words that encourage other people, rather than hurt them.

  1. Words of kindness – nice, polite, gracious language that shows respect and appreciation for another person
  2. Words of tenderness – words that reveal genuine sympathy and feelings of care for another person in a personal, sincere way
  3. Words of forgiveness – words that offer something tangible, like offering material help, bestowing a blessing, overlooking a weaknesses, or releasing a person from minor offenses between you

Again, do you notice a progression of intensity and impact here, moving from polite words of the mouth, to caring words that sympathize in the emotions, to devoted words that lead to actual personal involvement in some way.

These are the kind of words that people need to hear – in our friendships, our homes, our churches, our places of employment, our neighborhoods and our cities. People need the nourishment and encouragement that kind, tender, forgiving words provide.

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