Lately, you’ve probably seen fewer politics on social media. When the world is on lockdown, it seems we have other things to talk about. Unfortunately, after one thing there’s always another. You might have seen more posts lately about mental health, abuse, alcohol consumption, various and frequent injustices, and a variety of other social, economic, and environmental issues. There’s a reason for this.
With nothing else to do, we spend more time scrutinizing others.
If you’re tempted to speak up about what someone else is doing or what someone else believes, it’s important to think about it first. Proverbs 12:18 says, “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, But the tongue of the wise promotes health.”
Words that Hurt
Looking at the Hebrew used for this verse, you can get a stronger impression of the message. Piercings of a sword is written with Hebrew words that indicate “piercing through.” In other verses, this word was used to indicate the fatal blow resulting in death. The term sword or charab is used to indicate death and “smiting down.” Looking at the original text brings out the seriousness of the message.
Words hurt, and much of Proverbs is dedicated to this idea.
According to Proverbs 12:18, some use words like weapons of death. In some cases, I do think words can kill. Words can kill relationships. Words can kill a career. Words can even lead people to kill each other or themself. Words can kill and some people use them in that manner, but “the tongue of the wise promotes health.”
Words that Heal
The translation in my Bible dampens the message in my opinion. The original Hebrew wording isn’t that a wise tongue “promotes health” but rather it heals! The tongue of the wise heals as Jesus did. The tongue of the wise heals like a cure. The tongue of the wise doesn’t promote health like taking vitamins, it heals like being touched by the Great Physician.
Fred Rogers said, “Sometimes, all it takes is one kind word to nourish another person. Think of the ripple effect that can be created when we nourish someone. One kind empathetic word has a wonderful way of turning into many.”
We know it’s true as parents. Studies show us that hateful words to children create hateful attitudes in children. Adversely, studies show that parents speaking to their children with respect will create a culture of respect toward everyone in the life of the child.
Weighing and Waiting
In the current culture online and in real life, it’s difficult to say anything at all. With the current issues of COVID-19, protests, and politics, you will likely be on the wrong side of at least one person by speaking your mind.
I have seen countless posts and signage in recent weeks stating that “silence is compliance” while at the same time I’ve personally witnessed someone standing up for human rights and then torn apart for not doing so correctly. So what can you do when there’s no right answer? What option do we have when the choice we think is right ends up hurting others and putting us at risk?
Sometimes being quiet is like standing in the woods when you’re lost.
When you’ve lost your way and you have the option to take one road or the other, it is sometimes best to just stay put. This is how I feel about a lot of things right now. When you’re provoked online, when you’re in a disagreement with your spouse, when you’ve been hurt by a family member or even a stranger, it’s important to consider the weight of your words and consider waiting to say them.
If your message is heavy, choose your words wisely. If the message may be destructive, hurtful, or divisive, choose to wait for a better time. Take time to pray. Take time to learn both sides. Take time to form your own opinion. Take the time to weigh the right words. It may be that you also need to weigh how the words you say and the stance you take will affect others things about your life. Will it affect your job? Your ministry? Target your kids or your business?
Sometimes it’s not in having the first or last word. Sometimes it’s all about saying the right thing at the right time.
Does your silence mean compliance?
I urge you to build bridges with those around you, in your family, in your community, etc., even if you remain silent online and publically. Your actions will always speak louder than your words.