Choosing Words Wisely

Henri Nouwen’s thought for today:


“Words are very important. When we say to someone: "You are an ugly, useless, despicable person," we might have ruined the possibility for a relationship with that person for life. Words can continue to do harm for many years.

It is so important to choose our words wisely. When we are boiling with anger and eager to throw bitter words at our opponents, it is better to remain silent. Words spoken in rage will make reconciliation very hard. Choosing life and not death, blessings and not curses often starts by choosing to remain silent or choosing carefully the words that open the way to healing.”


I think this is advice that we could all use. We all find ourselves from time to time responding in anger to people around us without first thinking about what we are saying, let alone if we should speak at all. Jesus seemed to be referring to this in the Gospel this past week when he noted that “it is not what goes in the mouth tha defiles, but what comes out from the heart.” James too speaks of it. Hear this part of James 3; (Paraphrase – The Message);


“This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!” 


We grossly underestimate how much our words can hurt those around us. James encourages us to bridle the tongue as one would bridle a horse. I am pleased that I can be reminded today to think about what I say, and indeed, if I should say anything at all when I am angry. Generally I think my Grandmother was right when she said, “A still tongue makes a wise head.”

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