This post is written by Chris Surratt, a staff member who works with my friend Pete Wilson at Cross Point Church.
After a rough day at school, did your mom ever tell you “Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you.”? I don’t think that there has ever been a bigger, though well-meaning, lie told by parents. Those of us who ever went to school, held a job, had a sibling, or talked to another human being, know that words can hurt a lot more than a few sticks and rocks. Those breaks and bruises heal up pretty quickly, while a well placed zinger can leave long-lasting damage that may never completely heal.
Solomon recognized the power of our words. In chapter 10 alone, he refers to it several times:
Blessings crown the head of the righteous, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked.
Wise men store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.
When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.
The lips of the righteous know what is fitting, but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse.
Mark Twain once paraphrased Proverbs with his quote, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”
The power of our words to cause pain has been something that I have struggled with all of my life. We Surratt’s are blessed/cursed with mouths that can cut faster than most Ginsu knives. It’s probably because we’re too small to beat anyone up, so we try to cut them down to our size with words.
On the other hand, just as our mouths have the power to hurt, they also have just as much power heal and give life.
vs. 11, 21
The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life
The lips of the righteous nourish many
I think that all of us can remember a time when someone gave us a well timed compliment. When a boss told you “good job”. When someone you cared about said “I’m sorry”, and meant it. Small, seemingly insignificant words have the ability to make someone’s day or ruin it. What are you going to choose to do with your words today?
Is there someone in your life that needs a kind word right now?
Do your kids need to hear that you love them?
Do you need to ask forgiveness from someone that you have hurt?
Do you need to forgive someone who has hurt you?
We all need to learn to use our mouths wisely or vs. 31 just might become true of us:
The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be cut out.