Life & Death “Words”

life and death

In a story, an old guru spoke to his students that wise speech is is truthful, gentle, helpful, spoken from a kind heart and is timely. Then he spoke at great length about the harm that results from rude, mean spirited, harsh or careless words. A young disciple said, “Venerable sir, I do not understand how this can be. A stone can bruise. Theft can deprive. But, words are just sounds, having no substance. I must disagree with you when you suggest that they are so powerful.”

The master’s harsh words, “So sit down, shut up and stop interrupting,” startled the young man and he fell silent. But about ten minutes later, he jumped to his feet, face red, eyes bulging, fists clenched and his whole body shaking. The old man turned to him,

“You seem perturbed. Your gentle disposition is shattered. What happened to you?”

“You hurled harsh insults I did not deserve. You cannot possibly be the great teacher you pretend to be. You are a fraud!”

The old man responded, “Ah, I see. Now you agree that speech can be quite powerful.”

Words can guide us or deceive us, make us knowledgeable or  ignorant, violent or peaceful, sad or joyful, wise or foolish. Words give birth to ideas, which in turn create powerful emotions, that rule the hearts of men and women, who then can act constructively or destructively, for justice or for injustice. According to the Bible, death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. (Proverbs 18:21) The above verse became real in the life of Jacob when he said if the idol which Laban claimed to be stolen by one among Jacob’s people, let that person not live as recorded in Genesis 31:32. And we observe that on the way from Bethel to Ephrath (that is Bethlehem) Rachel died (Gen. 35:18) as per the word spoken by Jacob in Genesis 31:32.

We need to be careful of the words we speak. Some parents who speak negative words to their children fi nd later that these words impact their children. Owing to the influence of TV, other media and  peer influence, even children are  picking up bad words quite easily. School children use language that cannot be tolerated at home.

Have we considered careless language a minor thing? In the third chapter of the letter of James we find the instruction of taming our tongue. God made man with two ears and just one tongue, intending that we need to listen more (double) than we speak. The following table denotes how our words should not be. Our words should not be Reference

  • Corrupt Eph. 4:29
  • Harsh Pro. 15:1
  • Careless Matt. 12:36
  • Negative Matt. 12:37
  • Slander & obscene Col. 3:8
  • Belittling Pro. 11:12
  • Boasting Pro. 27:2

The Duke of Wellington, the British military leader who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, was not an easy man to serve under. He was brilliant, demanding, and not one to shower his subordinates with compliments. Yet even Wellington realized that his methods left something to be desired. In his old age a young lady asked him what, if anything, he would do differently if he had his life to live over again. Wellington thought for a moment, then replied. “I’d give more praise,” he said. The following table provides the attributes which our words should have. Our words should be Reference

  • Kind Pro. 16:24
  • Helpful for building up Eph. 4:29
  • Wise Pro. 16:23
  • Gentle, tree of life Pro. 15:4
  • Gracious, Seasoned with salt Col. 4:6
  • One of blessing Rom. 12:14, 1 Pet. 3:9,10
  • Express Thanks Eph. 5:4

Here is a true story: Forty thousand fans were on hand in the Oakland stadium when Rickey Henderson tied Lou Brock’s career broke the record. According to USA Today, Lou, who had left baseball in 1979, had followed Rickey’s career and was excited about his success. Realizing that Rickey would set a new record, Lou said, “I’ll be there. Do you think I’m going to miss it now? Rickey did in 12 years what took me 19. He’s amazing.” The real success stories in life are with people who can rejoice in the successes of  others. A few circumstances give us a better opportunity to exhibit God’s grace than when someone succeeds and surpasses us in an area of our own strength and reputation. A compliment can be a great motivator, particularly if you put a little thought into the why, when, and how of delivering it. Be sure to comment whenever one of your staff keeps working in the face of rejection, handles a difficult situation well, catches an error, given another employee a helping hand, sells a particular product for the first time, or  gives you a lead that proves fruitful.

Most of the time, a compliment should be given in public, either at a meeting or on the company bulletin board. If the situation is delicate, convey your praise through a personal note that the employee can share with his family. As with all rewards, praise should be given immediately after good performance to provide the greatest reinforcement. William Arthur Ward said Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you.

We need to discipline our tongue so that life may be transmitted through us and not death. Let us pray to the Lord everyday: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” – Ps. 19:14

dr cherian

About the Author

Dr.Cherian teaches in IITBHU. He is the senior advisor of Varanasi ICEU & president of Varanasi EGF. He resides in BHU along with his wife Grace and 2 children.

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