Examine your words so as to do no harm
It wasn’t all that long ago that I recognized the years behind me are more than the years ahead of me.
During my remaining time on the planet, I want my life to count. I want my words to count. I want to speak and write in such a way that is honoring to Jesus Christ, thoughtful in nature, inspiring to those who are distressed and helpful to those who are struggling.
During the past couple of weeks we have been trying to endure President Trump’s vulgar demeaning of several countries and — by association — the people who live there. Some would dismiss his language by saying “that’s just how he is” or “he’s not saying anything that isn’t true.” Others would use their own words to condemn him in terms in even more vile and reprehensible words than the ones Mr. Trump used. Some are calling him to repent while others are calling him to resign.
Two years ago I read a fascinating article by the Rev. Laurie Brock about the violence of our words. Part of that article was a list of practical ways for each of us to use our words less violently.
Here is one those ways: “Pay attention to our emotional flash points — they are often saying more about us than the person speaking. Spiritually speaking, these are showing us the planks in our own eyes we refuse to see. The people who speak the words that grab us emotionally are often the very people we need to hear, to encounter and to experience as voices of the holy. When we take our toys and leave (often in a rage), when we dismiss and demean, we cut our selves and souls off to transformation and healing.”
What am I trying to accomplish with this post? I’m here encouraging all of us to examine what comes out of our mouths, our phones and our computers. And after we have done that reflection, pledge to do better in using our words to build up instead of destroying.
Four years ago in an essay entitled “Inspiration — Martin Luther King Jr. and the Power of Words,” Robin Jeffrey wrote the following:
“Peaceful marches and sit-ins were coupled with words; with impassioned speech and honest communication of grievances and beliefs. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words were chosen carefully, chosen as carefully as those words he found in the Bible which he had studied in his youth, later becoming a minister in the Baptist church. King understood that words have immeasurable power. They enter our minds, take root in our hearts and can change the shape and color of our souls. They can hurt, but they can also heal; drive people apart and bring them together.”
Let’s keep talking. Let’s keep writing. But let us be inspired and challenged by the very words of Jesus found in the Gospel of Matthew … “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (12:36-37)
(Faulkner is the pastor at Weirton Heights Memorial Baptist Church.)