Your Words Matter: October Reflection
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger...
A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!
Proverbs 15:1, 4, 23
At a recent CNN-sponsored debate on healthcare, Senator Lindsey Graham quietly said of his Senate colleague John McCain:
“He is one of my dearest friends in the world…All I can tell you is that John McCain was willing to die for his country and he can vote any way he wants to and it doesn’t matter to me.”
How good these words were, especially when we consider that the vote in question had effectively scuttled Mr. Graham’s own pet project. Such kind words towards a political opponent were a “tree of life” (a taste of Eden) in the desert of our public discourse. They were an “apt answer” and therefore a joy to hear. They remind us of how important both the tone and content of what we say is. God’s words brought life and light into darkened chaos. Since we are made in his image, ours can, too—but too often they do not. Instead, we stir up anger and wound the spirit. Too often our words are a spark that sets a forest ablaze. (James 3:5)
There is no setting in which our words do not count, either for good or for ill: at the dinner table with family, while watching a football game with friends, in a quiet place alone with our phones, before a functionary at the DMV, at a public protest, in communications we can only imagine between the Las Vegas murderer and others over the months before he opened fire.
- Pray for softer and gentler words in public discourse: in Congress, on the news, between nations, and between neighbors.
- Pray for softer and gentler words in our private lives.
- Pray especially for softer and gentler words in our churches—so that they will be communities in which we can earnestly disagree, but with the sort of tone that brings joy, diffuses anger, and heals the spirit.
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