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You have 9000 words…

The average person speaks between 6000-9000 words in a day, which makes it one of our most valuable assets. It can also be one of our most destructive vices. What if we began to use our mouths as the truly phenomenal tools they are to speak life and hope into the people that surround us? James says that our tongue is the rudder of our body; it directs the course for our entire lives. We have the power in our tongues to produce life in people or bring death to people.

Think about the way we use our mouths to produce death:

Sarcasm
Sarcasm is a rhetorical device using a characterization of something or someone in order to express contempt for it. Also known as ‘being a jerk’. It is demeaning. It’s cutting off the limb someone has walked out on and watching them fall to the ground in front of a crowd while laughing hysterically at the fact that they were stupid enough to trust us. Sometimes they jump right back up, but they are not alright. It is possible we have truly hurt them and we’ve likely diminished our chance at having true community with them. It’s difficult for others to trust us when we prove over and over again that we’re not interested in having genuine conversation guarded by mutual respect.

Gossip & Slander
Dave Ramsey defines gossip as “talking about your problems to people that have no power to fix them”. They are words spoken that damage the reputation of another, true or not. Gossip is like poison ivy or ringworm – it spreads to everything it touches. It’s negative in nature and it’s divisive. It’s deadly. Growing up in the Christian setting, I learned that four letter words were destructive to the people around me – all the while, I watched as gossip ripped whole churches in two.

Perpetual Pessimism
The invitation Jesus gives is an opportunity to experience freedom, hope, joy, peace, and life. We have the Holy Spirit in us and he is inwardly renewing us day by day. Despite the fact that we face hardships, Jesus has overcome the world and is making all things new. He has even invited us to be a part of it. If we live with that perspective, our attitudes will reflect a hope that never ceases, no matter what the circumstances. This doesn’t mean that we will never have a bad day – just that our general outlook on the world should be full of hope.

Prideful speech 
It’s hard to quantify this one but if we are the kind of people that think we are always right and constantly try to “win” in every conversation, we are not using our mouths to spread life.

Here are ways we can use our mouths to produce life:

Encouragement
Paul tells the church at Ephesus that they should only say things that are useful for the building up of the body. Encouraging words breed community and enable vulnerability. While it is completely counter-cultural to look people in the eye and say kind things to them, it is a wonderful thing to do. And while it throws most people for a loop at first, it eventually breaks down the walls they have built up to defend their hearts from the destructive words they are used to hearing.

Genuine interest 
We should become interested in what other people are saying, and support them. When they tell us about the rough day they have had, we should ask them if we can pray for them. Along these lines, we should refuse the urge to bring every conversation around to re-center itself on us.

Be Truthful 
When it comes to relational disputes, sometimes we are too honest. What I mean is that sometimes we equate ‘speaking honestly’ with ‘being truthful’. I think it’s possible to feel a certain way and use it as an excuse to destroy someone with our words. While we might say what we really think or feel it is not the same thing as being truthful. Truth is always productive, not destructive. Sometimes I have condemned or judged people in the name of being honest – but I wasn’t being truthful, lest I would have held myself to the same standard. Truth is always spoken in love, for the purpose of building others up, and directed only toward those who need to hear it.

Seek Shalom
Jesus’ followers live in a spiritual kingdom where Jesus is King and everything is how it should be! Someday we will live in that reality fully!! Focus on each conversation as a chance to seek the Kingdom of God.

Jesus says that our mouth speaks from the overflow of our heart – in other words, the way we speak paints a clear picture of our hearts.  What is your heart like?

Comments

  1. I love the examples of both negative and positive ways to use those 9000 words. I think the way you've set up the positive examples could lead to some great extended discussion about how to implement each of those things.

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