Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's only words...

What do a cat, a bagel and a taco have in common? I’ll tell you in a bit. Right now, I want you to think about something with me. When was the last time you were angry? I don’t just mean a little miffed at someone. I mean truly angry. Were you angry enough to hurt someone else, or maybe yourself? What was it over? Chances are, the thing you were so angry about probably seems pretty silly now, or at least a bit amusing. Perhaps you have completely forgotten what it was that so enraged you in the first place.

I have a friend who used to get so angry that he would punch holes in walls. Fortunately, he has reformed this practice, but years ago there was no standing structure that was safe if he was mad. More than once, I have seen him with his hand bandaged up because he took on some plaster or sheetrock. I never understood that way of thinking. I guess he did it to keep from hurting someone else.

Some people like to throw things when they’re angry. We’ve all heard the stereotype tale of the wife and the rolling pin, but I read this week about some folks who took that to a new level.

A Florida man’s mother called him down for dinner, but when he did not respond, she unplugged his Xbox. He then went to the table, called her an obscene name and threw a taco at her. He is now in jail for assault. Another Florida person was arrested when she assaulted a man with a bagel. She is also in jail. I also read about a New York man who must have thought that throwing food was wasteful, so he picked up the family cat and threw it at his wife during a dispute. (Relax. Neither the cat nor the wife was harmed.)

All of these things are unusual items to throw in anger, but they were things that happened to be handy at the time. Sometimes we don’t need “things” to throw at people. Sometimes, the worst and most harmful things we throw are our words. Words can sting more than most projectiles and the wound they cause lasts much longer.

We speak demeaning and condescending words to people and call it sarcasm. We take advantage of other’s innocence and trust and call it a practical joke. We think that just because a person seems strong and they “can take it”, we have the right to say whatever we like to them.

We truly need to be careful of what we say. Words are powerful. They can build up or tear down. They can encourage or demean. They can lift someone’s spirits to the heights of heaven or crush them under their oppressive weight.

The scriptures give plenty of warning on using words. God has given us this gift of language and verbal expression just as He has given us many other gifts. Just as with all other gifts from Him, we have a responsibility to only use them for good, not evil.

The next time you speak, consider how you are using God’s gift. Ask Him to help you see how your language affects others, and to help you practice building up instead of tearing down.

Then Job replied: "How long will you torment me and crush me with words?”
(Job 19:1-2)

He who conceals his hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool. When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver, but the heart of the wicked is of little value.
(Proverbs 10:18-20)

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
(Proverbs 16:24)

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