Words have tremendous emotional power. They can convey the deepest love or the strongest hatred. They can lift people’s spirits or leave them beaten and abused. Unfortunately, we rarely pay significant attention to the words we utter. We speak to be heard without considering the emotional impact of the words spoken. However, even if we eliminate all profanity and vulgarity, all screaming and yelling, every insult or insinuation, and simply communicate truth without malice, we are failing our God and our fellow man. God expects us to do more than remain silent and correct our verbal weaknesses. We must learn to use words in ways that glorify our God and benefit others. We have the blessing of spiritual songs we can lift to heaven in praise to our God that only require our heart and our voice. We have the opportunity to bow down in prayer and offer sincere words of thanks and adoration. We have the words of the gospel to share with others in honor of the God who gave it. And God has provided opportunities to do so regularly that are often obvious and clear. However, speaking to our fellow man requires even more intentionality if we are to help them, encourage them, guide them, and strengthen them. Thankfully, Proverbs 25 offers wisdom to remind us and guide us in becoming more intentional and more godly in our communication.
- Take the time to find the best way to say something. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver” (Prov. 25:11). Select your words carefully and thoughtfully. Consider how they will sound to others. Then, once chosen, present them with grace. We often expect the people who hear us to interpret everything we say in the best light possible, giving us the benefit of the doubt no matter how poor the presentation. Choose your words carefully and meaningfully. Do not make people guess. Make your meaning clear and your heart abundant. They will then not struggle to understand you but rather appreciate your sentiment even more.
- Use wisdom when offering correction. “Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold Is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear” (Prov. 25:12). I am sure my students sometimes cringe when they hear me approaching for Homiletics. They know they must prepare for critique, which is never easy for anyone. They may not realize how difficult it is for the one critiquing. However, when correction comes with purpose rather than with malice, when it offers guidance to help rather than a tendency to hurt, it lends itself more readily to the willing heart. But even then, the wise rebuker will not rely solely on his intent but will also consider his manner.
- Prove trustworthy in all that you say. “Like the cold of snow in time of harvest Is a faithful messenger to those who send him, For he refreshes the soul of his masters” (Prov. 25:13). Everyone enjoys good news, and this passage certainly includes that in tone. But a faithful messenger delivers even bad news faithfully. While some color everything they say in order to make themselves look good, make someone else look bad, or ease the impact on the hearer, a faithful messenger is valuable because he presents a message for the benefit of the one who sent him rather than for himself. Careful accuracy combined with sincere love are a blessing to the hearer even when the news proves less than perfect. And the character of such a messenger will offer comfort even when the message does not.
- Choose soft words to deliver a difficult message. “By long forbearance a ruler is persuaded, And a gentle tongue breaks a bone” (Prov. 25:15). Some people (and preachers) seem to believe that high volume and harsh words are a necessary feature when the message demands much of its hearers. However, wisdom recognizes the power of the message, properly delivered, carries sufficient weight on its own, and the responsibility of the speaker is to present difficult challenges in a manner where the motive is clearly love and personal support to help comes across as clearly as the message. While this is true from the pulpit, it is just as important from the pew.
- Get in the habit of spreading good news instead of spreading bad news. “As cold water to a weary soul, So is good news from a far country” (Prov. 25:25). Bad news travels like a conspiracy theory on Facebook. It is easy to share, full of drama, and usually more informative about the one sharing than the news shared. Good news requires far more energy and yet proves far more rewarding. Plus, learning to share good news about others is endearing, brightening the room with a cheeriness rooted in love.
Speaking with a positive tone with positive words and positive force can do much to change the mood of those around you even when circumstances have not changed at all. While we cannot escape bad news, and we must sometimes speak difficult truths, we can choose to use positive wording to uplift souls rather than negative wording to drag people down. When you speak, consider the type of speech you would prefer to hear, and choose your words wisely.