I have a friend: little to my large, young and enthusiastic to my sometimes cynical and jaded self, alluring and gorgeous Stevie to my lumbering Miranda (if you’re a fan of Miranda Hart, you’ll understand the reference!) One of the things I appreciate so much about her is the encouragement she’s given me.
Was thinking about this word: en – courage. The prefix (pardon the English teacher here!) en- / em- shows that something has been put into or onto an item / person (encase, encircle, endanger); to show that the item / person has been caused to be / made capable of being a certain quality (enable, enlarge, enrich) or to show that the item / person has been provided with something (empower).
So my friend has put courage into me, made me capable of being courageous, provided me with courage.
With her tongue, her words (also her listening and the occasional hug when needed – particularly appreciated when she didn’t know me that well at first.)
Ah … the tongue. One of the greatest sources of comfort and love. Ecclesiastes 4 v 9-12 offers a lovely picture of this encouragement, this sharing, in practice.
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
With our tongues (and our actions of course), we can support, build up, encourage one another. We can spur each other on to even better things. We can lift someone who’s down and (with God’s help) set them on a better path. The tongue can be such a power for good.
But also the deadliest weapon known to man.
Proverbs 12 v 18 has it like this: ‘The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.’ And in Proverbs 15 v 4: ‘The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.’
On numerous occasions I’ve been encouraged by others, on other occasions tried to encourage someone else. I’ve also been in situations (and to my shame, too many times joined in) where the tongue is used to assassinate, to tear down, to destroy a person. Particularly if they’re not there. Why do we do that? Particularly if we wouldn’t say the same to their face? When the tongue is capable of such good, why do we sometimes use it to such harm? Even if we’ve not been personally affected, personally slandered, listening to this talk infects us, leaves a nasty taste in our mouths.
So how do we tackle the tongue?
Maybe by setting gates in the way of our words – you know the old adage: If you propose to speak, always ask yourself, is it true, is it necessary, is it kind.” Those are certainly good tests to apply to the words we are about to speak.
But from a Christian point of view (which I am writing from, although I accept this view is not exclusive to, or even inclusive of Christians all the time!) I want to add these ‘gates’ too:
- Does it build up the person I am speaking to (or speaking about)? Or does it build up myself to their detriment?
- Does it help them to be a better person (rather than just making myself feel better)?
- Does it lead them towards God (or lead them further away from God)?
- Ultimately: Does it raise them up (in mind, body, spirit, soul) or does it push them down?
I pray that God helps me, and all of us, to use our tongues wisely.
All Bible verses are c/o http://www.biblegateway.com/ and are from the NIV version of the Bible unless otherwise stated.
Pic 1: http://www.lifebeyondhepatitisc.com/resource-and-support/encouragement-and-inspiration-from-people-living-beyond-circumstance/; Pic 2: http://jaytheanalyst.com/commanding-your-morning-by-dr-cindy-trimm-the-power-in-the-tongue-video/; Pic 3: http://proverbsway.com/2013/06/11/proverbs-wisdom-20-bible-verses-about-the-power-of-our-words/; Pic 4: http://www.strongchurch.org/one-encouraging-word/; Pic 5: http://christianmomthoughts.com/7-ways-christian-encouragement-and-secular-encouragement-look-very-different/