We live in a culture today where quick wit and a sharp tongue are celebrated. The faster you can come back with a retort, the more impressed everyone around you will be. Some people have a skill for quick thinking, and they’re the ones everyone looks to on the debate team when trying to come up with an answer. They’re celebrated, their comebacks are encouraged, and everyone around them wishes they could have that skill.
One of my favorite movies is You’ve Got Mail. It’s a movie about two rival bookstore owners, a man and a woman, who compete against each other to not go out of business. Every time they talk to one another, the man has quick comebacks while the woman can never think of anything to say – until one interaction. During one conversation, the woman has the quick comeback, and the man walks away dejected. Later, the woman talks about how awful that made her feel. She wasn’t a mean person, but what she said made her sound rude and she didn’t like that.
In Proverbs, there are many verses that talk about the power of words:
Proverbs 15:1 “A soft and gentle and thoughtful answer turns away wrath, but harsh and painful and careless words stir up anger.”
Proverbs 15:4 “A soothing tongue [speaking words that build up and encourage] is a tree of life, but a perversive tongue [speaking words that overwhelm and depress] crushes the spirit.”
Proverbs 16:24 “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweet and delightful to the soul and healing to the body.”
Proverbs 18:4 “The words of a man’s mouth are like deep waters [copious and difficult to fathom]; The fountain of [mature, godly] wisdom is like a bubbling stream [sparkling, fresh, pure, and life-giving].”
Proverbs 8:21 “Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it and indulge it will eat its fruit and bear the consequences of their words.”
All of these verses talk about the importance of kind words, and the power hurtful words have. We as Christians are encouraged to think through our words first and use them to build people up. It might be fun and impressive to have quick wit, but thoughtful and encouraging words are definitely more beneficial.
We need to normalize kindness. It isn’t cheesy or old-fashioned. It’s necessary. Use your words to give life to other people, not to tear them down. Think before you speak – sometimes you’ll even find that words aren’t needed at all! Be known for your encouraging speech rather than your quick comebacks, and encourage the same thing in others. Be a wildflower that blooms with kindness.
James 1:19 “Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving];”