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Summary: This is the 8th devotion in the series, 'Building Relationships that Last,' and concerns the power that words possess, and how they impact our relationships.

It is said that an average person speaks about 5000 to 10,000 words every day. This is because, as we realized from the previous topic, ‘Communication is Key,’ that communication is the key to relationships, and the most used method of communication is words. We communicate with family members, friends, neighbors, vendors, colleagues, and so many others on any given day. Interestingly relationships can be built up or broken down, depending on the words we speak.

Here’s a powerful word from Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” (ESV)

That’s how powerful our words can be; they can either speak life to someone or literally be so hurtful, that they can despair of life.

How not to use words

1. Gossip

All of us have experienced the ill-effects of gossip. Gossip breaks trust, and also causes feelings to be hurt deeply. The definition of gossip as explained in the dictionary is, “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.” Generally, people tend to gossip when they are idle, and most often gossip is closely related to slander.

Here’s what the word of God has to say about gossip:

In Proverbs 11:13, we read “A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.” (NLT) Basically, that’s what a person who gossips does - they share information that someone shared with them in confidence, to someone else. Here’s God’s command as given so directly in Leviticus 19:16 “Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people” (NLT). God does not approve of us spreading slanderous gossip about others. The purpose of gossip is never unity, but discord, and the sad consequence is mentioned in Proverbs 16:28 “Gossip separates the best of friends.” Relationships that took many years to build can be quickly destroyed, if we yield to this habit of gossiping. Here’s a good caution to keep in mind. If someone gossips to you, remember that they will also gossip about you.

2. Rash Words

Sometimes, words are spoken in anger, and these words can be rash and hurt deeply. Proverbs 12:18 describes it this way, “Some speak rashly like the cutting of a sword,”(ISV) There are many who carry these deep hurts in their hearts for many long years. On the other hand, here’s wise counsel from Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”(ESV) Many beautiful relationships have been severed simply because of the use of harsh and unrestrained words. Especially while in an argument, it is extremely important to keep a guard over our tongue, and to be sure that the words that come out of our mouths do not cause hurt to others.

3. Careless words

Have you observed how when people get together, they start talking small talk, which invariably ends up with unwanted things being said? This is why we are cautioned in Proverbs 10:19, “Sin is unavoidable when there is much talk,” (GW). Here’s an important word of admonition from Jesus in Matthew 12:36, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,” (ESV) There are two points to take note of, when in conversation with others. Avoid careless and unnecessary chatter which leads to sin, and also be constantly reminded that God will hold us accountable for every careless word we speak.

4. Belittling words

It is extremely crucial that we should not belittle others with the words we speak. This happens, especially when people joke about others. These jokes may target a person’s appearance or abilities, and often, though the one who is the target may appear to be smiling, they are hiding their hurt with the smile. This kind of talk also creates a sense of worthlessness in the person, whereby they begin to devalue themselves. Our fun and jokes must never be at the expense of others. Here’s a word of exhortation from Proverbs 11:12, “Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” (ESV)

5. Hasty words

There is yet another way that we can use words, and this is when we speak hastily without listening to the other person. Sometimes, we also speak hastily without thinking, and commit to things that we are unable to fulfill. Were there times when you said something, and later wished that you had never said it? Solomon cautions us in Proverbs 29:20, “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (ESV). We will be deemed wise if we think before words actually come out of our mouth.

6. Lying words

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