Are you familiar with speech-action theory? This idea says that the words we speak not only share information, but our words also have the power to help others carry out actions.
Yes, our spoken words do have the power to hurt or help, to inform or to insult, to lift up, or to tear down. The point is, our spoken words carry power. So how can we use our spoken words well and wisely?
Did you now the Book of Proverbs in the Bible has more verses about our spoken words than any other book in the Scripture? In one sense we could say the Book of Proverbs serves as a “speech clinic” on what God has to say to us about our tongues and our spoken words.
By the way, the typical man speaks 20,000 words per day. And the typical woman speaks . . . well, moving right along. We are a nation of talkers. Talk shows on TV and radio are among the highest rated shows. Millions of cell phone users talk, text, and email. Some of these cell phones even ring during church worship services. We are talkers. Here’s our speech clinic from Proverbs chapter 15.
Avoid Hot –Headed Replies
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (v.1). A similar statement is made in v.18: “A hot-tempered person stirs up dissension, but a patient one calms a quarrel.”
When was the most recent time you found yourself in an anger-producing situation? When your order got fouled up at a restaurant? An angry parent who thought you had not treated his or her child nicely? A griping customer you had to wait on? An argument with a neighbor?
What kinds of responses did you make during these conversations? Did angry, heated, and enraged words fall from your lips?
The 2 Bible verses shown above remind us that when we find ourselves in an anger-producing situation, we are better off speaking calmly, gently, and softly. Why?
Harsh, hot-headed responses intensify anger, but soft responses reduce the tension and make way for reasonable conversation.
Think Before You Speak
“The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly” (v.2).
The truly wise person, says this proverb, thinks through what he or she is about to say, and when this person does speak, his or her words bring forth knowledge and wisdom.
Verse 28 also gives us some wisdom: “The heart of the righteous weighs its answer.” In other words, this person thinks before speaking. In plain words, get your mind in gear before you engage your tongue because you will have to live with the consequences of what you say.
And there are times when you are better off not to speak at all. One, if your words will hurt you, and two, if your words will hurt others. Think before you speak. This is wisdom from God.
Speak the Truth
“The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit” (v.4). Proverbs 26:28 adds, “A lying tongue hates those it hurts.”
The phrase “tree of life” is a reference to refreshment, like rain on parched ground. Truthful words have a refreshing effect on people. On the other hand, untruthful, deceitful, lying words crush people’s spirits.
How honest are your words? Do you have a problem with telling the truth? Lying, deceitful words have this awful way of eventually catching up with you.
Give Attention to the Timing of Your Words
“A person finds joy in giving an apt (or timely) reply. And how good is a timely word” (v.23).
A mark of real wisdom is the ability to say the right thing at the right time. This might be a daily prayer for you: “Lord give me the sensitivity to say the right thing at the right time.”
Who is a person you know who just seems to know the right thing to say at the right time? He or she was not born that way. Rather that person developed that quality through practice, through restraining the tongue when it wasn’t easy, through thinking before talking.
Speak More Positive, Joyful, Encouraging Words
“A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones” (v.30).
When you speak good news and positive, uplifting words to people, your words become a tonic for the body and soul. Haven’t you known people who, when they spoke to you, it was like they dumped a truckload of doom and gloom on you?
Make a commitment to yourself that your spoken words will not be put-downs or gloom-and-doom, but that you will speak more positive, joyful, and encouraging words.
We have in our day clinics for just about everything—drug and alcohol clinics, sports clinics, cancer clinics, eating clinics and more. Proverbs 15 serves as God’s speech clinic. And this wisdom from the Lord is hopeful.