[su_dropcap style=”flat”]I[/su_dropcap]N 1967 a band called the Bee Gees recorded a song titled Words. In part the lyrics are;
Talk in everlasting words, and dedicate them all to me. And I will give you all my life, I’m here if you should call to me. You think that I don’t even mean, a single word I say. It’s only words, and words are all I have to take your heart away.[su_spacer]
It’s only words.
I thought about words a lot yesterday. Not because I was on a hot writing project or preparing some kind of speech. It was nothing like that. I thought of all the ways words influence behavior, now and in the next act.
Words can compliment or they can criticize. Words can heal or they can hurt. Words can encourage or they can humiliate. Words can praise or words can punish. Words can imply truth while being entirely false. The same words that help can be twisted to hinder. It’s only words.
Right around the time I was memorizing those words to the Bee Gees hit song, someone I admired taught me that I needed to think before I speak. Not that I learned it back when I was in my early teens, but I’ve had a lot of practice over the last fifty year. This woman I wanted to emulate detected my insensitive and impetuous tendency to ‘communicate’ without filters and without thinking. The acronym THINK is prolific now, but back when I learned it, I was hearing it for the first time. I still remember the conversation sitting at her kitchen table. Me, listening for once, while she told me to, “Think before you speak. Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it important? Is it necessary? Is it kind? If it fails any of those tests, don’t say it.”
Vince Lombardi once said, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” I wish I could say I’ve practiced perfectly and I’ve arrived, but I’m still a work in progress. Let’s face it, we’re never going to get it right every time, but practice anyway. When you say whatever springs into your head without considering the lasting effects, someone is going to get hurt. Once you say it, the words might be forgiven, but they will never be forgotten. No matter how many times you try to take it back, it can’t be unheard. No matter how much you wish you hadn’t gossiped about a friend, the damage is done. Being disrespectful while arguing serves only to fuel the heat of anger. Watch what you say and how you say it. You can make your point without harming relationship. Proverbs 15:1 A gentle response turns away anger, but a harsh word makes tempers flare.
Sometimes it’s not what you don’t say, but what you do say, that makes a difference. Practice the presence of peace. Sure! And how is that supposed to happen? THINK – Is there anyone who needs a compliment, word of praise, or encouragement? Do you need to apologize to someone? Does a friend need to know you are thinking of them, or praying for them? Could you take a few minutes to tell someone you appreciate them? Go ahead. Find a reason to celebrate someone. They might be shocked, but I promise you the lasting effects will be only positive. Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, attractive, and seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer everyone.
The world is full of hateful people bashers. We seem to be stuck in a pattern of ridiculous insensitivity toward others. “I disagree with you,” is mistakenly and destructively construed as “I hate you.” We’ve lost our ability to discern between preferences and principles. We’ve forgotten how important it is to THINK before we speak, before we post, before we act. It’s only words. Psalm 119:65-68 You have done many good things for me, Lord, just as you promised. I believe in your commands; now teach me good judgment and knowledge. God is good and he does good; teach me his decrees.
Our moments are filled with opportunity use our words to compliment, heal, encourage, praise, tell the truth, and help. Words have an impact. Words have influence. It’s only words.