Summary: Words have the power to hurt or heal... Our challenge is to speak wisely, kindly and positively.

Title: The Healing Power of Positive Words

Text: Proverbs 12:18, 15:4 and 16:24

Thesis: Words have the power to hurt or heal… Our challenge is to speak wisely, kindly and positively.

The Bible in 90 Days Whole Church Challenge Series

During the last six weeks we have read a sizeable portion of the Old Testament. When we read Genesis through Esther we were reading what may be thought of as historical literature… it was chronological and told the story of God’s dealing with his people. Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon are considered wisdom or poetic literature.

Today as we reflect from the book of Proverbs we are being instructed in how to live wisely, specifically in the words we speak.


Today we are going to be talking about the words we speak. We will talk about their power for good and for bad. We will talk about how our words can build-up and how our words can tear-down. Our words have the power to help and heal and they have the power to hurt.

I ran across a little story about how not to fill out an accident report taught by a driver’s education teacher. Here are some examples of “what not to say” when filling out an accident report:

• “In an attempt to kill a fly, I drove into a telephone pole.”

• “I thought my window was down, but I found out it was closed when I put my head through it.”

• The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve several times before I hit him.”

• “I had been driving for 40 years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident.”

• “An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my car and vanished.”

• “The indirect cause of the accident was a little guy in a small car with a big mouth.”

I like that… a little guy in a little care with a big mouth indirectly caused the accident. The words that come out of our mouths are packed with power sufficient to cause an accident or worse.

How can we learn to make sure that our words are packed with the “power of life” and not the “power of death?” Another way of asking the same question is:

How can we learn to ensure that our words bring healing and not hurt people?

I. Control your impulses and speak wisely

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18

An elderly man had serious hearing problems for a number of years. His family tried again and again to convince him to get a hearing aid. Finally he relented and was fitted with a set of hearing aids restoring his hearing to 100%.

A month later he returned to doctor to have his hearing tested and the doctor said with a smile, “Your hearing is perfect. I bet your family is really pleased that you can hear again.”

The gentleman replied, “Oh, I haven’t told my family yet… I just sit around and listen and I’ve changed my will three times.”

Sometimes we are unwise in what we say and the little story makes an amusing point. The scripture also makes a pointed statement about the effects of our words on others.

A. Recklessly spoken words inflict pain and suffering.

Our text says that “reckless words pierce like a sword.”

Someone once said, “It’s nice to talk with people who can make a point without impaling anyone on it. “ Our words have the power to turn healthy people into hurting people.

There is also a more subtle observation about the people our words may affect.

B. Reflectively (Wisely) spoken words bring healing to the already hurting.

We need to discern when the people we are speaking to are already hurting and need to hear healing words and not words that inflict even greater hurt.

What can we do to learn to speak wisely?

1. Always ask God to help you guard your tongue. “Set a guard over my mouth, Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips.” Psalm 14:3

2. Always think before you speak. “Intelligent people think before they speak; what they say is them more persuasive.” Proverbs 16:23

3. Always remember that your witness for Christ is on the line. “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” James 1:26

How can we learn to ensure that our words bring healing and not hurt people?

• We learn to control our impulses and to speak wisely.

In addition to learning to control our impulses and how to speak wisely,

we also need to learn to conquer our bitterness and to speak kindly.

II. Conquer your bitterness and speak kindly

The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life; but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:4

What we say to others and how we say it, is a reflection of who we are inside.

The popular TV show American Idol gives us a little insight into how our speech says something of our character. Paula Abdul seems to always be gracious in what she says to the contestants but she is not always honest. Simon Cowell always honestly says what he thinks but he is rarely gracious. But when Randy Jackson speaks, his speech is always characterized by honesty and graciousness.

Were it not part of his shtick and he was so inclined, Simon Cowell could learn to be gracious as well as forthright in his comments to the contestants. But as it is, he seems mean-spirited which makes the truth hurt ever so much more than if he were kind in the way he formed his words.

A. Healing words come from a healthy heart.

The image in our text likens the person who speaks words of healing to a “tree of life.” The fruit of a healthy tree is good fruit.

B. Hurtful words come out of a hurting heart.

Just as a sick tree grows sick fruit, hurting people speak hurtful words. Angry people speak angry words. Bitter people speak bitter words. Critical people speak critical words.

So what can we do to learn to speak kindly?

1. Filter out all toxic-waste in your life. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice…” Ephesians 4:31

Think of your inner-self as being either toxic or non-toxic. If your words are marked by toxicity then you have a toxic heart. Just as our kidneys filter and excrete waste products of our metabolism from our bodies, we need to filter out the toxic waste in our hearts or minds.

Ridding ourselves of the toxic waste in our lives is not necessarily easy but it is a process that must take place or we will continue to circulate the toxic waste our hearts and minds and out our mouths. So if we are serious about having healthy hearts and minds we have to deal with the stuff that makes us sick. I don’t mean to overly simplify things but my sense is that the first step to filtering out the toxicity is:

• Forgive everyone who has every hurt you of everything they have ever done. The bible says, “Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you…” Colossians 3:12-13

• Accept whoever and whatever you cannot change and trust God for sustaining grace. Pray the Serenity Prayer: “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”

2. Infuse your life with the fruit of a Christ like spirit. “…Be (become) kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 And, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… and let the word of Christ dwell in your richly. Colossians 3:15 and 16

How can we learn to ensure that our words bring healing and not hurt people?

• We learn to control our impulses and how to speak wisely.

• We learn to conquer our bitterness and to speak kindly.

And third, we learn to correct our attitudes and to speak positively.

III. Correct your attitude and speak positively

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24

We typically buy honey that has been extracted from the honey comb and put in jars or little honey bear squeeze bottles… all packaged nicely and arranged on the shelves of our markets. But in its rawest form it comes packaged in its original honeycomb. The honeycomb is a marvelously designed arrangement of cells that are filled with nectar. Pleasant words are like the sweet honey that oozes from the cells of the honeycomb.

A. Your words are a reflection of what is inside you – just as honey is a reflection of what is inside the honeycomb.

Jesus said, “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a person unclean. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander…” Matthew 15:17-20

In the award winning film The Joy Luck Club, one little girl has the ability “to see the secrets of a chessboard.” Her gift enables her to become a national chess champion when she is eight years old.

But she has a driven parent who is both envious of her daughter and selfishly determined to use her daughter for her own ambitions for wealth and power. (Think beauty pageant mothers or stage moms…)

In one scene the little girl dares to resist her mother’s pressure for perfection and the mother responds with an icy silence and then she says to her daughter, “You are nothing. You are nothing at all.”

This is how the little girl described what happened next: This power I had, this belief in what I’d been given, I could actually feel draining away. I could feel myself becoming ordinary… and the best part of me disappeared.” (Daniel Meyer, “Words and Wisdom: Secrets to the Significant Life” Part 4,

Every year when I receive The Denver Post survey of which funnies I read and which ones I do not read, I always make sure to emphasize that I would be sorely disappointed if they should discontinue “Dilbert.” Scott Adams, the creator of the “Dilbert” comic strip, tells this story from his early days as a cartoonist:

He said, “When I was trying to become a syndicated cartoonist, I sent my portfolio to one cartoon editor after another and received one rejection slip after another. One cartoon editor called me and suggested I take art classes. Then Sarah Gillespie, and editor at United Media and considered one of the genuine experts in the field, called to offer me a contract. At first I didn’t believe her. I asked if I would have to change my style or get a partner or learn how to draw… and she said she believed I was already good enough to be a nationally syndicated cartoonist. Her confidence in me completely changed my frame of reference and how I thought about even my own abilities.” He said, “This may sound bizarre, but the minute I got off the phone with her, I could draw better and there was a marked improvement in my work.” (James M. Kouzes and Barry Posner, Encouraging the Heart, Josey-Bass, 1999,

Two stories… one is the story of poison spewing from the heart of a bitter and manipulative stage mom. The other is the story of encouragement from the heart of a woman who wanted to see a gifted young man expand his horizons.

What can we do to learn to make sure our words have a positive impact on others?

1. Examine your words.

2. Ask God to give you a clean heart and a renewed spirit.

3. Make a conscious effort to speak kindly.

The Psalmist prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me… O Lord, open my lips and my mouth will declare your praise.” Psalm 51:10 and 15

How can we learn to ensure that our words bring healing and not hurt people?

• We learn to control our impulses and how to speak wisely.

• We learn to conquer our bitterness and to speak kindly.

• We learn to correct our attitudes and to speak positively. .


Joseph Telushkin, author of Words That Hurt, Words That Heal, lectures throughout our country on the powerful and often negative impact of words. He often asks those in his audience if they can go 24 hours without saying any unkind words about or to another person. Invariably a small number raise their hands indicating that they can but there is nervous laughter from most and even a few will call out, “no!”

Telushkin responds: “Those who can’t answer ‘yes’ must recognize that you have a serious problem. If you cannot go 24 hours without drinking liquor, you are addicted to alcohol. If you cannot go 24 hours without smoking, you are addicted to nicotine. Similarly, if you cannot go 24 hours without saying unkind words to or about others, then you have lost control of your tongue.” (Rick Ezell, One Minute Uplift, July 21, 2006,

Telushkin poses a rather challenging proposition to his audiences.

God poses one similar:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful or building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29

Speak wisely, speak kindly and speak positively.