By Rex Stepp
The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.
I love the story that Robert Fulghum tells in his book, All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten, about the unique logging techniques of a tribal group in the Solomon Islands. The story goes that if they come across a tree that is too hard to cut down with a simple ax that they go to plan B. Early in the morning, they sneak up on the tree and start yelling at it…and they keep it up for seven days. The thought is that yelling at living things tends to kill them on the inside. By the time they’ve completed their task, the tree has died and falls over easily.
While I can’t vouch for how successful the Solomon Islanders are in yelling down trees, I think there’s a practical lesson we can glean from them as we look at living life together in a community. How we talk to, and about, others matters. While encouraging words tend to strengthen a person’s spirit, but yelling or hurling insults at people tends to kill them on the inside. We have the ability to build people up, or tear people down, just by the words we say and how we say them.
Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will break…or heal…our hearts.
What can I do today?
How are your conversations? Do people see you as someone who builds others up, or do they come to you for the latest gossip? Think about how you can make a positive impact on your friends today simply by the words you say.
Then say them.
And if you feel tempted to talk about someone in a negative way, ask yourself a few questions about what you’re going to say:
- Is it true?
- Does it need to be said?
- Does it need to be said to the person I’m talking to?
- Does it need to be said by ME?
- Does it need to be said now?
If the answer is ‘no’ to any of them, try holding your tongue. We’ve all been on the receiving end of an encouraging word as well as a well-placed dig or mean spirited gossip. The encouraging words are better.