Proverbs 12:18 Reckless words pierce like a sword,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
From verse 14 on there are many statements about words and speaking. This certainly brings to mind Jesus’ statement that “I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” (Matthew 12:36) Words are an essential part of daily life, and are in fact a part of the definition of what it is to be human. Various medical issues can make people non-verbal, to be sure, but higher-order thought processes require words even if they aren’t spoken. Some dogs can learn the meaning of up to hundreds of human words, but that still is different from formulating them and expressing them. The question then becomes, as Jesus said and as this verse indicates, what we do with our words. I think everyone has experienced being wounded by someone else’s words, but how often do we wound others? Sometimes it is done deliberately, and sadly, some people make a habit of it, but such people quickly end up with few if any genuine friends. When friends, genuine companions, are essential to real happiness, it would certainly be the part of wisdom to use our words for healing rather than wounding, just as this verse says.
As I have commented frequently, I am a man of words and I make my living with them. That makes Jesus’ statement very sobering to me, and I really need to take verses like this one to heart. When I was a teenager I felt very inferior when it came to sports and I tended to compensate with words, using them as weapons and thinking I was building myself up by putting others down. How sadly foolish! I think I have come a long way since then, but I’ll confess the temptation still arises. I am better able to watch my words in English than in Japanese, because not having attended Japanese schools I haven’t learned all the nuances of some terms. (Actually, I have found that in either Japanese or English, not everyone takes the same nuance from a given term. Some people seem determined to be offended!) I am reminded of what my father wrote in a dictionary he gave me as I was entering college. “The words are here. Use them. You have a gift for words. God has given it to you. Let Him direct you in developing it and using it. Use words accurately. Use them responsibly and constructively. Use them creatively, for creativity is included in the image in which He has made us. Use them to give life, not to destroy; to heal, not to hurt. When healing calls for the scalpel, see to it that it is not poisoned or infected by any iota of rancor or arrogance or callousness. ‘In the beginning was the Word…. In Him was life.’ Let Him give you the words and the ideas. Speak the truth in love.” At that point he ran out of space on the flyleaf of the dictionary! I have a magnificent example to follow, as indeed, he followed our common Lord.
Father, thank You for this reminder, and thank You that I still have that dictionary (even though I seldom use it) and knew exactly where to find it. I do pray that my words, and even my thoughts formulated in words, would be pleasing to You, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14) Praise God!