Tag Archives: Proverbs 18

Words of Life or Death

The tongue has the power of life and death…
Proverbs 18:21 (NIV)

I once knew a person who was educated, bright, and quite capable. For a short period of time, we were companions on a stretch of the journey. On occasion, we experienced the normal stresses of life, and I observed that this person could get inordinately out-of-sorts. I could watch anxiety and insecurity take over their entire person. In acute moments, they would blurt: “I’M NOT STUPID!”

The thing was, not once when this blurt made its exclamatory appearance did anyone ever hint that our friend was stupid. In fact, no one I knew in our circle would have even thought such a thing. Whenever it happened it was an awkward, inappropriate moment.

I quickly suspected that somewhere in this person’s impressionable childhood years there was a parent, and older sibling, or an adult of significant influence who had repeatedly, in a derogatory fashion, told them they were stupid. Now, the words played in their head like a tape recording on a ceaseless loop.

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of leading various groups of people through creativity workshops and classes. One of the key parts of the class is to identify the negative messages in our heads that create resistance to our creative urges. Almost always, these “blurts” are messages planted in our brains when we were young.

  • “You’re stupid.”
  • “You’ll never amount to anything.”
  • “You’re ugly.”
  • “Why do you waste your time with that shit?”
  • “I wish you were dead.”

I’ve heard so many stories along the way. In some cases, the words were truly evil, and were said with evil intent from a twisted soul. More often, I believe the harmful words were uttered in a moment of parental stress and the adult had no earthly idea that their momentary anger just planted a seed in the soul of a child that would bear rotten fruit in years of self-deprecation and insecurity.

The tongue has the power of life and death,” says the Sage in today’s chapter.

Never in the history of the world have we, as human beings, had instant access to so many words and voices. Never in the history of the world have we, as human beings, had the ability to broadcast our words from the palm of our hand to the entire world. Never in the history of the world have we, as human beings, had such power, with our words, to be an agent of life or death.

In the quiet this morning I find myself thinking about my words. I’m thinking about the words I speak to others. I’m thinking about the words I write and broadcast. I’m thinking about the words and voices I allow, by choice or apathy, to enter my head and heart.

Immediately, God’s ancient words come to mind:

“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life…”

(By the way, you’re not stupid.)

Featured photo by Larah McElroy via Flickr

Speaking Another Person’s Love Language

Birthday GiftsGiving a gift can open doors;
    it gives access to important people!
Proverbs 18:16 (NLT)

Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages is an interesting read and provides some great fodder for conversation and understanding. According to Chapman, there are five love languages:

  • Words of Affirmation
  • Acts of Service
  • Receiving Gifts
  • Quality Time
  • Physical Touch.

While I think we all respond positively to any act of love, Chapman contends that we all have a bent towards a particular love language. If I understand my spouse’s love language, then I can love her well in a way she will respond most favorably. If I try to relate to her in the love language that I speak most fluently, it may never have the desired effect because my primary love language isn’t her primary love language.

I have learned that Wendy’s primary love language is quality time. She wants to be with me, and she wants me to take the time to just “be” with her. When I am on the road for a week-long business trip it creates a relational drain. I try to make sure not to schedule too much right after I get home from a trip, but carve out time to spend just with her and fill up her love tank. If I want to really love Wendy actively, then I know I should drop what I’m doing and hang out with her in the kitchen, sit on the couch with her to watch a movie, or just sit with her at the table and read the newspaper over breakfast.

While I enjoy time with Wendy, one of my primary love languages is receiving gifts (which, I’m sure, is why the proverb above leapt off the page at me!). I love to give gifts and I love when people are thoughtful enough to give me a gift. Wendy has come to understand this, much to my relational pleasure. My birthday is next week and last week when I returned from a business trip there was a large stack of colorfully wrapped birthday gifts sitting in the living room next to the television. For two weeks I get to sit on the couch in the evening and see those gifts sitting there staring at me. They make me feel like a kid at Christmas and remind me that Wendy loves me. She’s speaking my love language.

And, love languages aren’t just a matter for spouses. Wendy and I talk a lot about love languages as we think of our family and friends. We try to discern their primary love language and remember it on occasions we want to express our love for them in tangible ways. If you’re interested, there’s an on-line test right on the homepage of Chapman’s site which allows you to determine the love language of you or your child. Give it a whirl and share in a comment what you found out! 🙂

There is an index of all of Tom’s chapter-a-day posts.

Chapter-a-Day Proverbs 18

The tongue can bring death or life;
      those who love to talk will reap the consequences.
Proverbs 18:21 (NLT)

Last week my dad and I made a quick run down to the lake. There were a couple of things that had been left undone for the winter when Wendy and I scuttled a trip in November. Plus, to be honest, I simply wanted to check on the place. Even in the depth of Winter I found it a peaceful place of refuge. Even though the trips’ purpose was to “winterize,” for this final stretch of the season, my spirit felt like I was opening up the place for the impending spring.

And so, my mind has been drifting back there ever since I’ve been back. Friends and family are already talking about the lake, making plans and setting dates for coming down this summer. As I think about this place of sanctuary, the thing that I perhaps appreciate most about it is life giving conversation. There are meals that find people still talking around the table three hours later, quiet morning conversations over coffee on the glider rocker, and sitting together on the dock talking the afternoon away. Wendy and I purposed not to have a television signal or a lot of radios. We want people to talk.

When I read the proverb above this morning I thought of this passage from our journey through Deuteronomy:

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

Our words and our conversations can build or tear down. They can bless or curse. They can breathe life into another person or sitaution, or they can infect with a viral capacity to lead into deathly places. We choose.

Today, my spirit is repeating an ancient prayer: “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be pleasing to you, O Lord.”