A word fitly spoken and in due season is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Proverbs 25:11, AMP
It’s interesting that the Bible has so much to say about our words. I was searching for a picture that could best be described as decadent. In absence of finding such a picture we will have to rely on imagination. Picture an exquisite silver bowl laden with burnished golden apples. Whether you can imagine it or not, you get what this means, right? Our words, as the text above says, are not meant to harm, but to help, to soothe, to please, to teach, to bless. Don’t you wish they accomplished this 100% of the time? Unfortunately, way too often they do not. More times than I can count, I wish I would have hesitated just a bit longer to allow the alphabet soup of letters collecting on my tongue to filter through my brain to avoid saying something that unnecessarily caused another person pain.
Recently while lounging not-so-comfortably in the dentist chair, I determined to keep my mind focused on other things like: my grocery list, errands to run, bucket list, you know, anything to keep me from focusing on the “jack hammer” in my mouth. It always sounds like the dentist is drilling in Grand Canyon, but of course the sound is just magnified.
So while trying to keep my mind focused elsewhere I happened upon an old memory, one that still makes me cringe. That particular day I was again at the mercy of a healthcare professional and awake. The thought of being awake gave me some sleepless nights prior to the day of surgery even though I had been instructed that I wouldn’t feel a thing. Right. True to his word, however, I was surprisingly comfortable, but of course I had been given something to numb the area he was working on and probably something to put me in “la la land”. Again, I was trying to keep my mind focused elsewhere rather than on the work taking place.
Eyes closed, mind who knows where, I amused myself with voice tones. Some high tones going up and deeper tones coming down. Up, down. Up, down. Don’t think me crazy, or go ahead . . . you won’t be the first. Anyway, it was distracting and somehow to my mind at the moment, entertaining. I assumed there were people talking in the room and I was aware of the sounds around me when all of a sudden, I heard my name spoken by a deep voice, probably the doctor. I was wide awake now, listening to see if I had imagined it. I only had seconds to wait. Indeed it was the surgeon who spoke my name, followed by a stern, “please be quiet so I can concentrate.” What? Why did he say that? Was I talking? Oh, dear. What did I say? I had no idea I was talking and the tones “going up” were mine! Naturally I thought the worst. After all, the subconscious mind has no filter, right? My heart beat faster just wondering . . . and worrying.
At the follow-up visit, I didn’t know whether to play it cool or act embarrassed. Would he remember? The suspense was killing me. Finally I had to know so I asked, “Doctor, what did I say to you while in surgery?” He grinned, then responded, “I’ll never tell.” He pleaded the 5th so I guess he will take my deepest secrets to his grave.
Perhaps you will find this amusing at my expense. I don’t mind. After all, I risked in sharing it. But it is a reminder to me that words do matter. We speak them from morning until night. Are they worthy? Truthful? Considerate? I especially speak to the heart of those who weep. Since I am a suicide survivor I know the tenderness of my heart. I know that I am cautious when approached by someone I suspect will ask how many children I have. And will they probe deeper? And if I answer more questions, will they pull back in disdain if I allow myself to reveal the cause of my child’s death? I can feel a twinge just writing this and no encounter with someone speaking hurtful words has even occurred today. Can you relate? Has this happened to you?
Actions are remembered, but so are words. They are stored in the hard drive, perhaps forever. Here is a sample encounter. Two friends, one in a wheelchair, met a person who knew the woman in the wheelchair when she still had the use of her legs. The acquaintance was surprised to see her in a wheelchair and said something like this: “You’re in a wheelchair now? I didn’t know you’s in a wheelchair.” The words may have sounded pleasant, but they seemed to drip with disdain as she gave her wheelchair friend the once over. No doubt when this woman is feeling depressed about her circumstances she will envision that encounter again. She will try to dismiss it, but it will attempt to resurface to her conscious mind again and again to cause her embarrassment.
Words have power. We elect officials by their words. We hold power over our children with words. We trust and believe in words that may not even be truthful. I agree with Terri DeMontrond, who wrote on social media, “Life is short. Speak your mind.” And I’m going to add, “but do it with care.”
Among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire. James 3:6, NLT