OMG, what did I say?
By Teresa A. LeNeave
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness ... A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit."
Death and life, the Bible tells us, is in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). Nearly everyone knows that words are powerful. Why then, do we forget so easily? Why do we let anger drive our words when we know they are so weighty? Even Jesus said we would be justified or condemned by the words of our mouth (Matthew 12:37), so why do we forget to consider the impact of what we say?
Words, we know are power-packed, but I wonder if the "tone" in which we speak has as much power to injure as the words themselves? On the positive side, our "tone" can also have a healing affect. It's just a thought to ponder, but do words carry an extra one-two punch when spoken with attitude? If so, how can we handle situations that are ripe for explosion? How can we speak life into a conversation instead of destruction and pain?
That question may be one of the greatest challenges Christian's have to face. Our tendency is to handle a problem in a way that seems right at the time. Trouble is, what seems right at the time, may not seem right 20 minutes later ... most certainly, not the next day when we think of all the things "we should have said."
Harsh words do the same thing EVERY time we use them. Looks like we'd learn, but we don't.
Harsh words do just exactly what the Bible says they do: they stir up anger. They intensify the situation. What may have started out fairly calm can quickly escalate into an intense verbal battle when we use harsh words fueled with "tone" that just dares the other person to respond wrong! Tone often says a whole lot more than the words we use.
So how do we deal with trying to control our words (and tone) so they don't wound and injure? How can we control our words so they heal, build up and motivate positive change?
I wish I knew the answer, but this I know for sure: Sometimes "winning the war" is not as important giving the other person a chance to save face. I remember a Dale Carnegie course that I took and his instruction was, "Always leave them an out. Give them space to save face and most of the time they will calm down." What I took from that was, "Don't back people into a corner because they come out fighting."
Wouldn't it be nice to have 20/20 foresight? Well, we just don't have it so we need to do the best we can with what we can see. Though we are often taken by surprise, God never is. Some situations demand intense confrontation, but when that's not necessary, the best rule of thumb is to remember that King Solomon advocated: a soft answer to turn away wrath and a wholesome tongue to produce a tree of life.