I should have filtered that thought first. I can hear the words rolling off my tongue and I already know that my next emotion will be regret.
Walking into the house after a day at work and looking at the explosion of laundry, mail and miscellaneous items that is the kitchen table. There were a million things I could have said, why did I choose to say that?
"What happened here? What were you doing all day?"
I know, I know. I'm a complete moron. I wish life were more like the DVR at home where I can conveniently rewind or fast-forward the parts I need to. Unfortunately, there are no take backs on this one.
There is my beautiful bride. My amazing (and 8 months pregnant) wife who looks up from her computer with a look that said, "I know you're not talking to me!"
In a matter of seconds not only did I totally screw up, I created the atmosphere at my house for the rest of the evening. It was not good.
On a regular basis we create our environments by what comes out of our mouth. Who would have thought that our tongue, a mere two ounces of membrane, could cause incalculable ruin and wreckage?
James uses three examples to show us just how powerful the tongue can be. A horse is controlled by a tiny bit, a ship is controlled by a small rudder and a forest fire is started by a simple spark (James 3: 3-5).
Words have created world wars and united countries. A speech by someone as influential as Hitler accompanied by the power of propaganda caused a group of people to do unspeakable acts.
Words have the power to do incredible things for both good and evil. We must understand that the words we use create the world that we live in. Each and every day we are creating the environment that we live in.
In fact, James would tell us that our ability to control what comes out of our mouth is one of the greatest signs of spiritual maturity. There is this undeniable connection that runs from the heart to the mouth.
Jesus confirmed this thought when speaking to the Pharisees when he said, "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matthew 12: 34). In other words, if you develop a continual inability to control your tongue it is more than likely a heart condition.
So here are some thoughts on how we can begin to use our words to create positive environments.
Choose to speak life into the people you come in contact with. I don't care whether you're an optimist or pessimist by nature; nobody wants to be around someone who continually sees the glass as half empty.
Maybe you're critical by nature and you need to begin taking inventory of what is actually coming out of your mouth. You may not even realize that you can go hours without ever saying something that brings life to the situation.
I'm also not asking for you to lie to yourself. If you see storm clouds rolling towards you in the distance, don't declare that it's sunny and beautiful. That's not being positive, that's just being in denial.
I've started my own little experiment. Whenever I'm in a coffee shop, retail store, fast food restaurant, etc., and I see a worker who seems somewhat overwhelmed, I try to genuinely ask them how they're day is going. This individual may have served 200-plus customers that day without so much as a thank you.
The response is usually quite remarkable. The majority of the time I get a slight smile and a look that says, "You're the first person who has asked me that in days." Some people just stare at me like, "Why do you care?" Regardless, it's a reminder how words have the ability to change the atmosphere.
One kind word spoken at the right time can completely change a person's entire day.
Just a few weeks ago I was experiencing one of those really tough days. The kind of days where it seems like you can't do anything right and nobody is pleased with your performance. On top of that I had some rather uncomfortable conversations on the schedule that day.
As I was driving to my next meeting I got a text from an old friend that I hadn't seen in over a year. The text was rather simple: 'Driving and started praying for you. Believe in you and I know you will do great things.'
It was simple, but for me it was timely. Just hearing those words from one person gave me the encouragement I needed to face challenges ahead of me. It also reminded me of the power of words, whether typed or spoken.
My challenge: make a conscious decision to speak life into the places you go. You will probably find out that more people are drawn to you and the situations you find yourself in will begin to change.
Matt Nelson is the lead pastor at City Church.
Share this article: