How important is our speech? Some believe that our words create our environment becoming a self fulfilling prophecy. Others believe our words are merely words with no power. I happen to be firmly in the balance between the two. I believe our self talk and our spoken words are very important to control and use wisely but I'm not superstitious. I don't believe I can somehow jinx myself with my words or that my words are more powerful than God's grace. Let's look at it from a balanced point of view.
Psalm 19:14 (Modern King James Version - MKJV) Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Jehovah, my Rock and my Redeemer.
God is our Creator. He planned and designed us from the first cell to the last hair on our head. He planned our DNA, He knows when and to whom we will be born. He knows how long our days will be and when our last breath will usher us into His presence. He created this world for us. He provided everything we would need in this world to live. Oxygen, space, gravity, food, drink, healing properties (such as the vitamins in foods, plants, etc). He provided all that we need. This earth was made for us and we were made for this earth.
There is none like our God! We are His Creation! If we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, then we are His Children! He is intimately aware and involved in every second of our lives. For those who are lost, He is everywhere present through the Holy Spirit, trying to lead them to the salvation knowledge of His Son so they can be saved. Even to their last breath, the Holy Spirit pleads with them to be saved! For those of us who are saved, the Holy Spirit is within us to teach us and grow us into the people God wants us to be. He lovingly crafts us from the inside out, empowers us to live better. With the Holy Spirit living in our hearts, we have power to live a better life!
This sets the stage for our subject about our words and our self talk. It is important for us to realize two things to be in balance:
1) God is the only all powerful Being. I am NOT God.
2) As a flawed human being, I am susceptible to negativity in my mind and in my environment.
If I say to a child, "You are stupid and always will be stupid," I am saying something that will hurt the child's feelings and self esteem. If I say it often enough, the child will begin to believe they are truly stupid. If you call someone names and make fun of them, verbally bullying them, it could result in a someone believing they are worthless and even lead to suicide.
On the other hand, if you tell your children you love them and are proud of them, they feel good about themselves. Do it often enough and they begin to believe they are lovable and valuable, with a healthy self image. If you compliment someone and give words of affirmation, encouragement, and support, the result could be a well adjusted adult who perpetuates the positive cycle with their own children.
So are words important? YES! Of course our words are important. We can tell ourselves (in our thought life) how ugly, awful, stupid, worthless we are and we will feel ugly, awful, stupid, and worthless. We can say the same to others and they may believe they are ugly, awful, stupid and worthless.
With our words we can be a peacemaker or stir up trouble. With our words we can give wisdom and direct others towards God or we can destroy budding faith and lead them away from God. With our words we can curse and with our words we can bless. We can lie or we can tell truth.
Proverbs 10:18-21 (King James Version - KJV) He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool. (19) In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise. (20) The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth. (21) The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom.
Proverbs 10:18-21 (MKJV) He who hides hatred with lying lips, and he who speaks a slander, is a fool. (19) In the multitude of words, sin is not lacking; but he who holds back his lips is wise. (20) The tongue of the just is as choice silver; the heart of the wicked is worth little. (21) The lips of the righteous feed many; but fools die for lack of wisdom.
Proverbs 10:18-21 (Amplified - Amp) He who hides hatred has lying lips, And he who spreads slander is a fool. When there are many words, transgression and offense are unavoidable, But he who controls his lips and keeps thoughtful silence is wise. The tongue of the righteous is like precious silver (greatly valued); The heart of the wicked is worth little. The lips of the righteous feed and guide many, But fools [who reject God and His wisdom] die for lack of understanding.
Proverbs 15:1-7 (MKJV) A soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger. (2) The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours out foolishness. (3) The eyes of Jehovah are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. (4) A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but crookedness in it is a break in the spirit. (5) A fool despises his father's instruction, but he who listens to correction is wise. (6) In the house of the righteous is much treasure, but in the gain of the wicked is trouble. (7) The lips of the righteous send forth knowledge, but the heart of the foolish is not so.
Proverbs 15:1-7 (Amp) A soft and gentle and thoughtful answer turns away wrath, But harsh and painful and careless words stir up anger. The tongue of the wise speaks knowledge that is pleasing and acceptable, But the [babbling] mouth of fools spouts folly. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, Watching the evil and the good [in all their endeavors]. A soothing tongue [speaking words that build up and encourage] is a tree of life, But a perversive tongue [speaking words that overwhelm and depress] crushes the spirit. A [flippant, arrogant] fool rejects his father’s instruction and correction, But he who [is willing to learn and] regards and keeps in mind a reprimand acquires good sense. Great and priceless treasure is in the house of the [consistently] righteous one [who seeks godly instruction and grows in wisdom], But trouble is in the income of the wicked one [who rejects the laws of God]. The lips of the wise spread knowledge [sifting it as chaff from the grain]; But the hearts of [shortsighted] fools are not so.
James 3:2-11 (Easy To Read Version - ERV) We all make many mistakes. A person who never said anything wrong would be perfect. Someone like that would be able to control their whole body too. (3) We put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us. With these bits we can control their whole body. (4) It is the same with ships. A ship is very big, and it is pushed by strong winds. But a very small rudder controls that big ship. And the one who controls the rudder decides where the ship will go. It goes where he wants it to go. (5) It is the same with our tongue. It is a small part of the body, but it can boast about doing great things. A big forest fire can be started with only a little flame. (6) The tongue is like a fire. It is a world of evil among the parts of our body. It spreads its evil through our whole body and starts a fire that influences all of life. It gets this fire from hell. (7) Humans have control over every kind of wild animal, bird, reptile, and fish, and they have controlled all these things. (8) But no one can control the tongue. It is wild and evil, full of deadly poison. (9) We use our tongues to praise our Lord and Father, but then we curse people who were created in God's likeness. (10) These praises and curses come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, this should not happen. (11) Do good water and bad water flow from the same spring? Of course not.
Proverbs 18:21 (KJV) Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
Psalms 10:7 10:7 (MKJV) His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud; under his tongue are mischief and vanity.
In studying the above verses, we can see the power our tongue can have in hurting ourselves, hurting others, hurting nations!
How many leaders have spoken in pride and arrogance and caused great harm to their nation with deceitful words, angry words, artful words, lying words, manipulative words, persuasive words, and hate-filled words?!? How many leaders have spoken with humility and grace and caused healing between nations with truthful words, understanding words, wise words, revealing words, encouraging words?!?
If I use my tongue to give a false witness (lying under oath, lying, deceitful, deliberately concealing), I can send an innocent person to jail. If I use my tongue to tell the truth, I can help bring justice.
If I slander and gossip about someone, their reputation can be harmed to the point of destroying their marriage, family, business. What if that person has done something really wrong? This is where wisdom comes in. We must know when to be truthful and reveal things that need to be revealed. On the other hand, we also need to know when it's none of our business and it's best to keep quiet and let God handle things. If I hear my neighbor arguing in the privacy of their home, it's none of my business and I shouldn't be talking about it to others. It's not for me to gossip about and slander someone's reputation in the neighborhood. But if that argument escalates and I see my neighbor come running out the door chased by the spouse with a gun, I would be remiss if I didn't tell someone (call the police). I would, in no way, think I should keep quiet if I saw my neighbor murdering their spouse. If your pastor said an unkind word to you and it hurt your feelings, should you be telling everyone in the church who will listen? No. Say a prayer, pray and ask God to help you forgive and leave it to God. On the other hand, if you have found out your pastor is having an affair with the church secretary and they are about to abscond with the church's money, it's time to speak up. Be sure you do so with correct motivations and a pure heart, tell only the truth and don't rehearse it to everyone within a thousand mile radius. You use wisdom, discernment and you constantly keep a check on your own heart to try and keep from falling into sin yourself. Believe me, I know, it's a slippery slope so we do well to be careful. There are some things that are egregious enough that something has to be said. But there are many times when it's best to keep quiet, to remain prayerful, to let words be few.
If we argue with our family, it's so easy to pop off and say hurtful things. These things can damage our loved ones and may be hard for them to get over. I've done it, you've done it. We've also been recipients of angry, hateful words and we know how it hurts. In the heat of anger, we can unleash terrible hurt. Those who are on the receiving end will respond in defense, in anger, in hurt. We can lose control and it become a major eruption or lead to a longstanding feud. Some people never forgive. As Christians, we are called to forgive. But if we are the ones on the receiving end, it's one of the hardest things you'll ever do. In fact, in our human-ness, we cannot do it. But, with the Holy Spirit living inside of us, we can pray and let the Holy Spirit work that forgiveness out in us over time. I will confess that in a couple of instances, the hurt was so deep it took some years and much prayer, asking God's help, to reach a place where I felt I had fully forgiven. I didn't do it all right and I'm not superhuman. God had to deal with me, direct my thoughts, lead me to a place of humility and repentance. Then He began to empower me to forgive. Each time the anger and hurt came back, I would try to take it to Him and let Him deal with it in my heart and with the person(s) who hurt me. Sometimes it's harder to forgive those who hurt your loved ones than it is to forgive those who hurt you. I've heard people say, "I will NEVER forgive you and I hope you rot in hell." Knowing their circumstances, I can understand where they are coming from. If someone murdered, raped, tortured, stole from someone in my family, I could understand that sentiment. But God calls us to be forgiving. This sounds impossible but we have a secret weapon that will allow us to do impossible things... the Holy Spirit lives within us! If God calls us to do something, He has given us the Holy Spirit to empower us to do it. Without God's help, I cannot do it, but with Him all things are possible. The Holy Spirit can help me to come to a place where I can finally let it go and forgive so I can live a better and more healthy life. I can eventually let God deal with the murderer/rapist/thief/terrorist's heart so I can be free from the horror that clings to me with unforgiveness and bitterness.
During times of stress, anger, arguments, we would be wise to use self control with our tongue. We don't want it to escalate and we don't want to unleash something we can't put back in the bottle! In anger we tend to call each other names, bring up past hurtful things, make unrealistic comparisons, curse, try to use our words deliberately to hurt because they are hurting us. The Bible teaches us to be wise, use self control and manage your anger so that the result is healing and not destruction. Again, I cannot do this on my own. I'm too human. I'm a sinner and it's what sinners do. But I have my secret weapon. A weapon so powerful that it raised Christ from the dead! Romans 8:11 (KJV) "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." The Holy Spirit dwells in me and can enable me to do what God calls me to do. I can be a peacemaker rather than an instigator. God can help me use my words correctly. I will never get it all right every time. But I can get better, do better, speak better, be better as I grow in Christ.
Therefore our words can be used wisely. Sometimes, things need to be said. Truth needs to be told and sometimes that means confrontation. Anyone with a child knows they test your boundaries from the time they begin walking and talking. You can't totally avoid conflict and confrontation if you are a good parent. A bad parent will let things slide and avoid the conflict to the detriment of the child who grows up with no boundaries and no self discipline. A good parent will confront the child wisely and with self control, reveal truth, and help them learn better ways. For instance, let's say a teenager is sneaking out with friends to parties and doing drugs, alcohol, sex. Usually, a good parent has spent time since their children were little to introduce discipline, positive example, teaching, giving wise advice, and setting boundaries with consequences. Even then, some teenagers will still act out and be hard to handle. It's the nature of being a human. But if you ignore and avoid the conflict, in order to have peace... you are doing untold harm to your teenager! A bad parent ignores and avoids destructive behavior just for the sake of some peace. Your peace will be shortlived. There is a time to confront. But do so wisely. You don't confront your wayward teen with name calling, cursing, shouting, belittling, smirking, self righteous smugness, etc. You use your words and your body language to communicate wisely and with self control.
Then there is the importance of self talk. What do we tell ourselves in our thought life? I have really struggled with this and maybe, being human, we all have. I tend to tell myself all the negative and bad things over and over again. "Nobody loves me, I'm unlovable, I'm ugly, I'm stupid, I can't do anything right, I do everything wrong, why is everything my fault, why was I born, I'm fat, I'm too tall, I'm too short, I have big feet, my nose is ugly, no one would ever want to be with me, why didn't I finish college, I'll never have a good job, I'll always be alone...." It is like a repeating mantra in our mind. If we let it continue, it becomes very hard to re-train our mind. I have not mastered this but I want to work on it. All this negative and defeating self talk makes me depressed and overwhelmed. My thoughts run the same rabbit trail every time I get a little down.
Did you know that animals make trails. They go over the same ground again and again to get to food, water, shelter, etc. Over time, those trails can be followed. The Indians followed animal trails, wagons followed the Indian trails, roads came from the trails. They became paved and some are now super-highways. We have a road in our area called Blackstock Road. From what I've heard, original animal trails were followed by Indians. Later these trails were used by white men who drove their livestock down these trails to markets. The trails became roads that were used to drive livestock and at times were so busy that you could see a black line of movement from far away... thus it was called Blackstock Rd. This road is now a paved road cars use all day long. My point is that our thoughts can make trails in our minds and before long we can unconsciously follow these trails and they become roads and highways. It's easy to travel that highway of doubt, negativity, denigration, shame, pain, and defeat because your thoughts have traveled there so often. It's harder to train your mind to go in a different direction through unused areas of positive thinking. It's like pushing through undergrowth the first time in a wilderness. It's a little exhausting but you make yourself do it. The next time the path is a little easier and if you keep at it, the old highway of shame will become overgrown from disuse while the new road to healthy thoughts is easy to navigate. I should work at having faithfilled thoughts instead of faithless thoughts.
Notice all that self talk was "I... I... I..."? It's all about me even if it's critical of myself. One day I realized how self involved I was with all this constant negative babble. I was consumed with ME! I didn't like me. But I could talk bad about me all day long. My world was revolving around me even though it was a self-proclaimed horrible me! And then it hit me! God created me and I was really saying God's handiwork is worthless, God didn't know what He was doing when He created me!?! When I wished I had never been born, I was saying God didn't know what He was doing when He designed, planned and created me. Who was I to say God's creation is worthless, ugly, unlovable?!? I'm His handiwork. Every human being is!
In studying this, we have seen how important our words are and how powerful they can be for good or bad. But some people can go to the opposite extreme. There are those who make their money on teaching positive thinking and creating your own life through positive words. The power of positive thinking! Religious and secular speakers, alike, have marketed this in neat packages of seminars, books, self help tapes, DVDs, etc. Christian speakers can be called prosperity preachers because they think you can pray for blessings, riches, health and speak these things out with our words and they will come true. I can pray to be healed, speak that I am healed and I will be healed. It's all based on a formula. Pray for it, believe it, speak it, receive it.
As we have seen, there is some truth about how effective and powerful our words can be. But do we have the ability to create a self fulfilling prophecy with our thoughts and words? As we've seen, to some degree, we can. I can tell myself no one loves me and will feel unloved even if I'm surrounded by a loving and supportive family. But there is a limit to our "power".
You see, God is the only ultimate power. He is the only all powerful, all knowing, all seeing, ever present God. I am not. God created the earth by speaking it into being. I did not. God said, Let there be light: and there was light. I cannot do this. I am His Creation and He is the Creator. It's not the other way around. God is the one in control and He is the only one with the wisdom to wield control. Give me that kind of power and I'm gonna do something stupid and make a terrible mess. Thank God, I'm NOT Him!!!!
I have seen people who have become downright superstitious about the power of their words. If someone asks, "How are you?", they will say, "I'm blessed and highly favored" because they think "If I say, I'm not feeling good I'll end up sick". You might as well say, "I'm doing good, knock on wood."
I do not control God with my thoughts or my words! God does not do my bidding. He is not my magic geni who does whatever I say. I cannot manipulate God to bless me or curse me with my words. I cannot persuade God with formulas of speech. When I pray, it is to align myself with God, not align God with me. It is to communicate with my Father and to spend time in His Presence so that I come out of my time, with Him, more like Him. It is not to spend time with God so God comes out of our time more like me. I'm not there to convince God to my way of thinking! Or to make demands of God, Or make deals with God. I pray so that I am moving with God into His Will and His good pleasure. I can make my petitions to God. I can be honest with God and tell Him how I feel and what I want but then I must come to trust Him and His Ways; to lean on Him and not insist in my own desires. I can have honest dialogue with God. He knows it anyway. I can tell Him I'm hurt, frustrated, mad, confused, depressed, overwhelmed, feeling alone and unloved. But prayer is not just a one way street. After I'm honest with my feelings to God, I must allow Him to bring healing and lead my thoughts to higher ways. The result should be faith in Him and what He will do in His Way and His Timing. Prayer is not a list of demands. It is a time of communication and communion where you should come out with a self adjustment... adjusting self out and God in. As we come to understand how much God loves us, we can begin to learn to trust Him and His Love even when things around us are looking bleak. We can know that we know that we know, that He is doing what is best because He loves us and is working good things in and around us for eternal purposes. Trusting in that kind of love takes time getting to know that kind of God and is what prayer is all about.
So, are my words important? Yes. Can they take the place of God and create my own reality? No. Only God's Word is forever and all powerful.
Psalms 12:6 (MKJV) The Words of Jehovah are pure Words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
Isaiah 55:10-11 (MKJV) For as the rain comes down, and the snow from the heavens, and does not return there, but waters the earth, and makes it bring out and bud, and give seed to the sower and bread to the eater; (11) so shall My Word be, which goes out of My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall certainly do what I sent it to do.
Hebrews 4:12 (MKJV) For the Word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing apart of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Psalms 33:6 (MKJV) By the Word of Jehovah were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
Mark 13:31 (MKJV) Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My Words shall not pass away.
I am thankful that my many faithless, negative, hurtful, mean words have not created my reality. I am too fallible and will say the wrong things. I am humbled because I know I do it wrong so many times. But God forgives and He is ever faithful. I deserve the negative results of my faithless, shameful and doubting thoughts that are then manifested in my speech. The heart is the fountain, words are the streams.
Matthew 15:18-20 (Contemporary English Version - CEV) But the words that come out of your mouth come from your heart. And they are what make you unfit to worship God. (19) Out of your heart come evil thoughts, murder, unfaithfulness in marriage, vulgar deeds, stealing, telling lies, and insulting others. (20) These are what make you unclean...
Luke 6:45 (CEV) Good people do good things because of the good in their hearts. Bad people do bad things because of the evil in their hearts. Your words show what is in your heart.
But God's grace saves me from them. I will have the consequences to deal with but God is with me and will help me overcome the consequences of a negative thought life and negative words. I may have to eat some humble pie and apologize to those I've hurt with my words. I may have to work hard to re-train my mind with good, healthy thoughts and learn to speak faith-filled and encouraging words. But God will help me. He is with me all the way and will never leave or forsake me because of my sins even the sins of the tongue. He is changing this weak and sinful heart. Out of that old heart came destructive thoughts and words. But I am a new creation through Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit lives within me. He is teaching me a new way.
Romans 12:2 (MKJV) "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order to prove by you what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God."
In conclusion, our self talk and our words are important to control and use for good. It is helpful to us and to those around us. But we are fallible and we make mistakes and we do it wrong so many times. Thank God, He is the only one whose words are forever and faithful and true. His Words are the only words that are all powerful and eternal. So is His Grace! He forgives and gives us grace and mercy so that we can change. Let's work on our thought life and our words. It benefits us. But if we fail, and we will, God still loves us and will make a way to redeem our hasty and unwise words if we trust Him.
Colossians 3:15-17 (CEV) Each one of you is part of the body of Christ, and you were chosen to live together in peace. So let the peace that comes from Christ control your thoughts. And be grateful. (16) Let the message about Christ completely fill your lives, while you use all your wisdom to teach and instruct each other. With thankful hearts, sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. (17) ;Whatever you say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, as you give thanks to God the Father because of him.