What do people hear when I speak? - 11 September 2023
By Ben Fourie
This proverb caught me off-side. We all know that gossip or thoughtless words can do a lot of damage to people and injure them, but the way this proverb tells it, it gives us a better perspective of how damaging it can really be. A sword is, after all, not an ordinary knife meant to be used in the kitchen, but a weapon of war that is meant to be used in killing or severely wounding people.
According to Proverbs, thoughtless words are not something insignificant. It can be deadly. The story that I keep repeating, unthinkingly, may be like a sword cut in the other person’s life. Thoughtless words or gossip have the propensity to gather momentum as it is retold, making it even more painful to the one about which it is told.
The proverb also has a very positive side. Time and again, when reading Proverbs, I realise how a proverb can ask more than one thing from us. It is not enough to refrain from thoughtless words, I also have to contribute to people’s “health” – meaning their spiritual and mental health. A sword makes deep wounds but my tongue is able to heal. What a beautiful metaphor! What I say and how I say it, might be like cool healing drops on a very painful wound.
I frequently have to ask myself if I am really attuned to other people’s need for healing words. I do not have to be very eloquent or bring over brilliant insights; wounds do not always need the most expensive medicine. I see it when one of my granddaughters has a skinned knee from falling off a bike – only a little bit of old-fashioned Germolene ointment, a piece of sticking plaster, some sympathy and a hug are usually enough to dry up the tears. The quantity or even quality of a spiritual “medicine” is less important than the amount of love with which we share it with someone who was injured by life.
Prayer: Father, we praise you for treating our wounds with love. Please help us to spot those who are injured and in need of our attention. Please help me not to use thoughtless words that may wound somebody. Amen