Words, to me, are a source of delight. We can do so many things with them. We can notice quirky facts about them, such as, “There are no words in the English language that rhyme with the word ‘angel.’” Or we can make up jokes about them, such as, “Did you know that in the dictionary, under ‘redundant,’ it says, ‘See redundant’?”
Or we can be totally confused by some of the things we say. For example, ‘alter’ and ‘change’ are synonyms, but ‘altering your trousers’ and ‘changing your trousers’ are two totally different things. Or, why do wear a pair of pants but just one shirt?
Words are one of the best tools we have for communication. As with any tool, however, there’s a correct way to use it, and there’s also an incorrect way to use it. With the Internet running rampant now, our world has become a place in which anything we say can be seen, heard, and read by people who know what we mean, and by people whose thoughts take them to a totally different universe.
Words have enormous power. They have the power to raise someone up, and they also have the power to tear people down. So how do we tame them and use them in the best possible way? We have to learn how to tame our tongues. And that is by no means easy.
James is very clear on this. In James 3:7-9, 10b, he says, “People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God… Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” (NLT)
So if we can’t tame the tongue, why should we try? The simple answer is we can’t do this by ourselves. We have the Holy Spirit to help us learn self-control. It will take time to learn, but if we apply ourselves to learning the art of self-control, then the blind rage that seems to be overtaking our public discourse might just lessen. Gradually, almost imperceptibly at first, and then, with ever-increasing vigor, love will win the day, and the words we speak will not be double-edged swords.
It won’t be easy, but in the end, it will be well worth the effort.
Lord, we have used and misused the words You have given us. Through the Holy Spirit, help us to learn how to use words to nurture the best of us, rather than bring out the worst. Amen.