Answers to Your Questions
Question: My friends and I are in the habit of exchanging gossip about others. I sometimes feel bad about it because, to be honest, a lot of it is unkind or sarcastic. But I just can’t resist the desire to be in on “the latest.” Any advice?
King Solomon said, “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21 NIV). Think of that! The words you say are real things. They can bless or curse, they can lift up or knock down, they can save or damn!
The old saying, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” is not true at all! Take, for example, the true story of Mary Ellen and Jesse Pepper: Mary was so hurt and discouraged by the malicious gossip that another 18-year-old girl, Jesse, had spread about her that Mary committed suicide—and Jesse was convicted of manslaughter. It was called a “gossip slaying” because Mary took her life as a result of the gossip.
That may seem like an extreme example, but honestly now, is it that extreme? Haven’t there ever been times when you’ve felt so low and discouraged because of someone’s cruel, unkind words that you wished you were dead? Or maybe you have wounded someone else that way.
Let’s face it, we’ve all been guilty at some time or another of hurting others with our words. Maybe they were unintentional, maybe they were intended in fun, but they were unkind and hurtful just the same.
Maybe at that very moment the other person was longing for a word of encouragement, but instead our cutting words wounded deeply and left an ugly scar. This poem makes the point poignantly:
It often only takes a few words hastily spoken to start things going wrong. So how can we guard against that thoughtless, unkind word that can leap so quickly from our lips? What can we do to tame our tongues?
Well, try as we may, we can’t! The Bible says, “Every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue” (James 3:7-8). Only God can tame it! “With men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). The only way to fully tame our tongues is by asking God to change our hearts, “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). If your heart is overflowing with God’s love, then the words of your mouth will be filled with love and compassion.
There’s only one way to change the untamed tongue, and that is to change the spirit that controls it. You can never control it yourself. Jesus is the only true source of love, kindness, goodness and sweetness, and as you allow Jesus to take control of your life, He also takes control of your tongue. His Spirit in you will inspire you and even speak through you with His wonderful words of love, light and life!
If I knew that a word of mine,
A word not kind and true,
Might leave its trace
On a loved one’s face,
I don’t think I’d speak it—
If I knew that the sting of a word
Might linger and leave its mark,
With a deep dark scar
On a loved one’s heart,
I don’t think I’d speak it—
Nails in the Gatepost
As a young boy, I had a fiery temper that often caused me to say and do unkind things.
One day, after an argument had sent one of my playmates home in tears, my father told me that for each thoughtless, mean thing I did, he would drive a nail into the gatepost in front of our house. Each time I did a kindness or a good deed, he would pull one nail out.
Months passed. Each time I entered our gate, I was reminded of the reasons for those ever-increasing nails. Finally, getting them out became a challenge.
At last the wished-for day arrived—only one more nail! As my father withdrew it, I danced around proudly exclaiming, “See, Daddy, the nails are all gone!”
My father gazed intently at the post as he thoughtfully replied, “Yes, the nails are gone—but the scars remain.”
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