“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
We’ve all heard that phrase. We’ve used that phrase. Sometimes, we abide by that phrase. But sometimes we don’t. And there’s a lot of opportunity for both. As human beings, we average around 16,000 words in a single day!
Yes, you read that right: 16,000 words in a single day. Now, there are variations, I’m sure. I know some people who are very quiet and probably won’t hit half that number. And, of course, I know others who could easily double that number.
The point is this. We use a lot of words every day. But this large number of words makes me curious – are all my words good? Did I consider them before I spoke? Were they given enough thought before letting them out? Because once I let them out, I can’t get them back.
Paul shares his thoughts on words in his letter to the churches in Ephesus.
Ephesians 4:29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
Words can be a tool to build up or a weapon to tear down. They can do good or bring hurt. It reminds me of a hammer. A hammer is an excellent tool for framing together 2x4s for a wall. But when you swing and miss a nail, hitting your finger instead, it doesn’t feel much like a tool anymore. It feels more like a weapon!
We made a great analogy with a hammer in the kids’ church and assembled birdhouse kits. It took a couple of hours to build the birdhouses, and the hammer is a tool that can be used to drive the finishing nails to fasten the walls of the birdhouse. As I explained the time it took to build them, I immediately smashed one of the birdhouses with the same hammer. And I asked…how long it took me to tear that birdhouse down.
Seconds, they said. Exactly. And the same is true for words. Building someone up with words takes an enormous amount of time, yet can be undone in seconds.
And that’s Paul’s warning. 16,000 words a day, and we can share good things, build others up, strengthen others, minister to each other, and allow God’s grace to flow. Grace isn’t given solely for our benefit alone. We receive grace to extend grace to others. And who doesn’t need words of grace spoken over them? Some days, it feels like we plow through the day by hand, grinding and trudging along. A word spoken in grace can be the catalyst to spur someone to keep going!
As you go through your day, remember that words matter. The words you speak to your family, coworkers, and church members all matter. The speech you give at the grocery store and bank matter. Heck, even the text messages and social media posts matter! Yes, they count too! Therefore, choose well! Choose to edify!
You are loved!