Here I am saying "I do." Some of the most powerful words I ever said.
A few years ago I preached a sermon from James 3. I taught about the tongue and it's ability to spark a fire. Honestly, it was a pretty good message I delivered. Too bad I didn't take better notes for myself. I have learned the hard way that life & death is in my tongue.
We all know how awful it is when we say something intentionally derogatory. When we criticize and judge others with our words. Perhaps even worse is when we do it on accident. So many times I have spoken without thinking and created a whole mess. Shared something that was private information & exposed someone. Once I replied to an 'annoymous' comment on my blog whose words were less than supportive. I should have just kept silent and carried on instead of responding. My response wasn't harsh but it would have been better not to defend myself. Turns out it was an old friend of mine from growing up. My hasty reply hurt our friendship. I burned a bridge.
I do love it when my words build up. I wish I was better at this. Giving honor and encouragement both in front of people and behind their backs. What a blessing to find that my words helped someone and gave them some wind in their sails. It is something so simple and yet so difficult.
The effects of words on the listener seem obvious. Clearly they will make someone feel small & insecure or edified and confident. But I have learned a good deal about how my own words effect me. When I build myself up by my own bragging I get deeply insecure. I am afraid of someone realizing that I am no all I say I am.
If I minimize the gifting of another with a well placed criticism or doubt-casting question I steal someone's honor. I'm not sure if you have ever stolen something, but it just sits in your gut. I feel horrible about what I have done. I not only demeaned another person directly, but I muddied up their reputation.
I carry around the weight of my own words.
The same is true when I say things that are life giving. I feel the presence of God. When I honor another person and build them up in public then I am also giving honor to God. That feels so good. It feels freeing, light and hopeful.
I have learned that my words not cause both fire & life in others, but they cause fire & life in me as well. I carry the weight of my own words. What I carry is either accusation, doubt and shame or honor, hope and joy. It is up to me. It is up to wether I am willing to control this tongue of mine.
Keep an eye on sarcasm & witty distain. Let encouragement and words that offer help flow. It may not seem like it, but your words are a fire hazard & they can do CPR.