Check out this powerful article from James MacDonald:
Words of Life
By Dr. James MacDonald
Proverbs 15:4 “ A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”
James 1:26 “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”
Without exception, all of us know first-hand what a blessing and what a weapon words can be. Throughout Proverbs and James we read that life and death are in the power of the tongue.
“A gentle tongue is a tree of life,” says Proverbs 15:4. Tender, good words, spoken from the heart, at just the right time promotes joyful relationships. But the flip side is also true, “ but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” Perverseness means “crooked.” Perverseness is twisting someone’s words so they’re distorted from what they meant. Perverseness brings hurt and harm. Proverbs 15:4 says those kinds of words have the power to break the spirit; it’s painful to admit—we shatter and wound those we love with the words we say.
Maybe you wonder why your spouse keeps their distance. Why can’t I connect with my son? Why am I not close to my friend like I used to be? Ask yourself, “Have I wounded their spirit by something I’ve said to them?” When a person’s spirit is injured, they close themselves off to you. They put up a wall. Ask God to bring to your mind the gentle words to say to them to make it right. Start with these five things:
#1 A word of regret. Go to your loved one and say, “I’m sorry.” Don’t let yourself off with the big catch-all “sorry.” Be specific. Say, “I’m sorry I said this,” “I’m sorry I did that.”
#2 A word of responsibility. “It’s my fault. I have no excuse. Please forgive me.” Sure, others have a role in the conflict, but you can’t fix anyone else. Do your part.
#3 A word of hope. “I’m going to try harder.” Again, be specific. “I’m going to try harder at affection; I’m going to try harder at attention. I’m going to try harder at listening to you.”
#4 A word of commitment. “I’m here for you. We’re going to get through this together. Nothing will change my love for you.” Make sure your loved one knows that. Most people will flourish in that commitment.
#5 A word of affection. “I love you.” Say it sincerely. Say it till it comes easily from your lips. If you didn’t grow up with that kind of affirmation, you might need to work a little harder at this one, but break the chain and be the solution in your family.
Think honestly about the words spoken in your circle of loved ones. Today, you have the power to bless or to hurt them. Choose to plant the tree of life by the words you say.