In our home just lately, we have been talking a lot about the power of words. Having a house full of teens, we tend to have a lot of joking, teasing, and, might I say, “trash talk” between them all. Oftentimes this back and forth is done in good fun and with seemingly no ill intentions. However, at times it can become, in my opinion, cutting and negative; I would even go as far as to say it can be hurtful and disrespectful.
As parents of teens, my husband and I no longer send our kids to their rooms for being mean or disobedient. Those days are long gone. I am thankful that we are at a stage in our lives with our children that instead we are able to sit down, open God’s Word, and see what it has to say about any issue we might have to address. You see, if our children don’t hear from the Lord Himself, then our words of correction can become repetitive and mute. If we don’t show them why they shouldn’t do a certain thing or act a certain way, then they will never truly understand their place in God’s kingdom and their personal responsibility to live Christlike lives.
In our discussions over the past few days, I have realized that it isn’t only my children who need to learn about the power of the tongue. As a mom, I need to realize the power my own words have. They can bring life to my kids’ spirits, or they can bring death. Before I deal with my children, I need to deal with my own heart.
Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (NIV). The Good News translation put it like this: “What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequences of your words.” Personally, at times I become so run by my emotions or moods that my tongue becomes unhinged and I forget that there are consequences to the words I speak. Whether I offend, cut down, or crush a little part of my child’s spirit, the result is broken relationship and broken trust. If I can’t control my tongue, I cannot be effective in communicating the love and mercy of Christ to others, especially my own children.
I have seen over and over a breakdown in communication between children and their parents, husbands and wives, all because a harsh word caused hurt that in turn led to resentment, anger, and ultimately a strained or non-existent relationship. We sometimes forget the bigger picture. The devil’s plan is to divide and destroy relationships, because without unity the church cannot be effective. If the church is not effective, then God’s kingdom can not be advanced. See the plan?
There are 137 verses in the Bible that talk about the tongue. Obviously, how we use our tongue is of great importance to God. In Scripture the tongue is often referred to as a sharp, divisive weapon, used to cut and tear down. But is also called wise, soothing, and able to bring healing. It can be used to alienate, but it can also unite and lift up. The choice as to how we use our tongues is ours.
So how do we in times of frustration and irritation pour out honey instead of acid? How do we lead our children by example? Because remember, to expect something of them that we are unwilling to do is hypocrisy. The answer is in daily surrender. Daily surrender to the One who is able to change our hearts and convict us of our need for Him every moment of every day. It’s in realizing that what comes out of our mouths is in direct relation to what is in our hearts. We cannot control our words in our own efforts. Like those New Year’s resolutions, we start strong and ultimately fail. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to die to our flesh and become the people, the moms, the parents that God has called us to be.
In those times when we want to respond in a way that is contrary to the nature of God, may we be willing to stop, take a step back, and ask, “Does this bring life or death?” We should be thankful when the right response comes, but we must be willing to humble ourselves and ask forgiveness when our flesh and our tongues supersede the Spirit! I challenge you to step out and ask God for help. He is faithful and will meet you right where you are.
“Lord, help us to use our tongues to advance Your kingdom. I pray that when we speak, we would speak life and truth. May our words build up, encourage, love, and correct in a way that is pleasing to You. I pray that we would be examples of God’s character to our children and deal with them how You deal with us—patiently, justly, and graciously—and that we can say to them, ‘Follow me, as I follow Christ.’ Amen.”