A soft and gentle and thoughtful answer turns away wrath, but harsh and painful and careless words stir up anger.
Imagine how your relationship with a boss or business partner would look if you made it your practice to only speak harshly, painfully and carelessly. I think we’ve all seen marriages and friendships crumble, or family members stray from one another, because of words spoken from a place of pain or mere ignorance. A fundamental component to any relationship is sound communication. This is true for relationships of all types. But the lesson here is not so much about the action as it is about the reaction, the fruit that is produced when we speak.
Proverbs 18:21 tell us that the tongue holds the power of life and death. Let us meditate on that for a moment. First, the tongue has power. Second, words can either give life or take it. When we speak, we have an opportunity to influence our relationships in an incredible way. The right words can resuscitate a dying relationship or give birth to a new one. At the same time, foolish and unkind words can take the life out of a relationship until all that remains is a dusty corpse.
In today’s verse, we are told that words can change the people we encounter daily. A sweet word can diffuse an angry foe. Likewise, words spoken with malice or simply spoken thoughtlessly can raise up anger where peace once resided. We are not ignorant of the fact that words are powerful. We sharpen our tongues and slay our neighbors all too often and freely in this cruel world. We use words to elevate ourselves and bury others.
Before you speak today, evaluate the intent behind your words. Think of the power you have to speak life or death into any person, any relationship and any situation. Every time you speak, you make that choice. I pray God gives you the grace to choose wisely.