Written by Hannah Schneider.
Inside of us all is a powerful instrument...
It can be wielded for utter destruction and deception, or forgiveness and healing. It is something we all possess-something we have all felt and experienced the profound effects of. From it, nations are inspired to pull together and accomplish feats previously thought impossible. Groups rise to power and influence. Wars are waged. Individuals heal. Families are reconciled or torn apart, and from it we show the world what we are made of, what lies deep inside of us. It is an expression of the intangible things about us, like thoughts and emotions. And every time you wield this instrument, you cannot take it back. You cannot make the notes produced from it disappear or reverse.
You probably have already guessed what I’m talking about. One of the most powerful instruments we possess as human beings made in God’s image, is our tongue and the words it produces. In the book of James, we get a vivid picture of how one, tiny body part could have tremendous effects.
Now when we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide the whole animal. And consider ships: Though very large and driven by fierce winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So too, though the tongue is a small part of the body, it boasts great things. Consider how large a forest a small fire ignites. And the tongue is a fire. The tongue, a world of unrighteousness, is placed among the parts of our bodies. It pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell. - James 3:3-6
In order to understand the power we hold in our speech, we need to first understand how God created us as human beings. Genesis tells us that after God created the heavens and the earth, He created us, the human race, in His image. Think about it. God created the entire universe. Everything you see on this planet, every person that ever lived, every tree and shrub, every species of animal, every star or planet you see in the sky and the trillions of others you can’t see with the naked eye...was created with a word. Our words have power because God’s words have power, and He created us like Him.
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. - Proverbs 18:21
I began to understand this the hard way from a young age. As a fifteen-year-old girl who desperately wanted to be accepted and praised, careless words cut into me mercilessly and etched out distorted images of myself into my heart. As someone who has always been fascinated with words, I let my love and idolization of them become my own demise.
I accepted whatever was spoken over me as my true identity...bipolar, “crazy girl”, stoner, loser, flighty, lazy, stupid, irresponsible, thoughtless and many others are labels I took on and wore around brazenly as an adolescent. In the same way, my own words, which were twinged with bitterness and the pain of rejection, wreaked havoc on my family members and the people who deeply cared about me, burning bridges and creating emotional rifts in the process.
Years later, God has restored the false identities and broken relationships that resulted from the hurtful words of my past, with much patience. Even now, there are times where I feel the consequences and weight of verbal shots fired from years ago. But God is constantly using His word, the ultimate truth about myself and others, to bring healing once again. The unfortunate reality is that we can’t take back the words we’ve said, but we can change our course and take steps forward to hold ourselves accountable. Through our words, we can inspire and build up others, move people into action, extend forgiveness and bring healing. Words can be beautiful and empowering, and our tongues can be instruments of grace through which God carries out His purposes and spreads the gospel. To proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message of reconciliation, is to wield the power of life. The choice is simply ours.
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. - Proverbs 16:24