Words can Heal and Words can Harm

Words are very important. Words can heal and words can harm. Words can hurt grievously and for a long time. The tongue can bless and the tongue can curse. It is very important for us to control our words and tame our tongue when we are angry. Many times, when we are angry we say the most atrocious things. We forget ourselves and become indifferent to what we say. We blast the other person without mercy, although we may not mean those words. But words once spoken cannot be taken back and it takes a long time to forgive and forget. We have to exercise self-control. Many couples are particularly prone to such outbursts when they get mad. But it is not an easy thing to control our tongue when we are provoked, boiled over with anger or have outburst of wrath. It is at such time that we have to learn to hold our tongue and to remain silent. If we can’t tame our tongue, we have to take a break or go for a walk to cool off. It is much easier to control the words before the blow-up than during the explosion.

Uncontrollable words spoken in anger can have devastating effect. Angry words, that are used unthinkingly, such as ‘I don’t care,’ ‘I can’t be bothered,’ ‘I don’t need you,’ or ‘you can go to hell’ cause pain and feelings of rejection. They give rise to insecurity. The unmeant and foolish words contain full of deadly poison and can play havoc in the mind. The unruly words get churned over for hours on end and create their worst mischief in a difficult relationship. It can take a very long time to forgive what was said. Let us learn to turn away from angry words before they leave our mouth and try to say healing words instead. Father Henri Nouwen said, ‘It is so important to choose our words wisely. When we are boiling with anger and eager to throw bitter words at our opponents, it is better to remain silent. Words spoken in rage will make reconciliation very hard. Choosing life and not death, blessings and not curses, often starts by choosing to remain silent or choosing carefully the words that open the way to healing.’ (‘Bread for the Journey,’ Sept 5)

We must also be very careful that in our anger we do not label our children with ugly names such as fat, stupid, snake, pig, moron, ‘kay-poh’(busy-body), useless, good for nothing. Such negative words can do harm to them for years to come! Henri Nouwen said, ‘When we say to someone, ‘You are an ugly, useless, despicable person,’ we might have ruined the possibility for a relationship with that person for life. Words can continue to do harm for many years.’ (‘Bread for the Journey,’ Sept 5) Indeed, we do not want to spoil our relationship with our own precious children. We must always use words to build them up not words to knock them down. Be an encourager not a critic. They have enough people criticizing them but far too few approving and affirming them. So to help our children to fulfill their highest potential we should be their greatest ENCOURAGER. Encourage. Encourage. Encourage on every occasion.

St Paul advises us not to speak harmful words but to use helpful words, ‘Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.’ (Ephesians 4:29 TEV) Also, don’t utter vulgar or obscene words, ‘Nor is it fitting for you to use language which is obscene, profane, or vulgar.’ (Ephesians 5:4 TEV) And no more immoral talks, jokes or gossips ‘Since you are God’s people, it is not right that any matters of sexual immorality or indecency or greed should even be mentioned among you…You may be sure that no one who is immoral, indecent, or greedy (for greed is a form of idolatry) will ever receive a share in the Kingdom of Christ and of God.’(Ephesians 5:3,5 TEV) St Paul warns us not to quarrel so we are to ‘Remind our people of this, and give them a solemn warning in God’s presence not to fight with words. It does no good, but only ruins the people who listen…Keep away from profane and foolish discussions, which only drive people further away from God. Such teaching is like an open sore that eats away the flesh.’(2 Timothy 2:14,16-17 TEV) He reiterates that we should ‘keep away from foolish and ignorant arguments; you know that they end up in quarrels. As the Lord’s servant, you must not quarrel. You must be kind toward all, a good and patient teacher, who is gentle as you correct your opponents, for it may be that God will give them the opportunity to repent and come to know the truth. And then they will come to their senses and escape the trap of the Devil, who had caught them and made them obey his will.’(2 Timothy 2:22-26 TEV)

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