One thing I have learned (often the hard way) in my journey through this life is: words are powerful, and they have consequences.
Our speech can be used to build up or tear down. We experience it first hand at home, work, school, and church. We also see examples of this on social media every day, and lately, it seems as if most of it is snarky.
Snarky is a relatively new, mostly British slang adjective that means rudely sarcastic or disrespectful; snide.
Snarky people speak reckless words. They may be innocent (”Why aren’t you married yet?”) or intended to pierce your heart (”Why can’t you do anything right?”).
We have all been on the receiving end, and I have to admit I’ve been on the giving end too. When it happens, I call it a snark attack.
THE REALITY OF WORDS
Remember the childhood rhyme: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” We would recite it when we were on the receiving end of snarky words. Unfortunately, we all know first hand that without question there is no truth to this rhyme.
Words have weight; they can wound, they can divide, destroy, and even bring death.
“Words are powerful beyond imagination. Think about it. When God created the world, how did He do it? He spoke. God said, ‘Let there be… and there was’. Words have power… The potency of godly words can revive, heal, and change our lives. Ungodly words have the power to bind, imprison, and destroy.” – Craig Groeschel, Soul Detox.
Imagine that you and I are sitting down over a cup of tea. I am sure you could tell me words spoken to you both as a child and an adult that have wounded your heart. I’m sure you also can bring to mind life-giving words spoken to you at the exact moment you needed to hear them.
BOTH SIDES OF OUR WORDS
I experienced both sides of the power of words when I wasn’t expecting it. I was in line at the drive-through of a local fast food restaurant.
The man in the car in front of me became enraged. The reason, the employee taking his order misunderstood him and asked him to repeat it. He was screaming and cursing into the speaker. He refused to do what the employee asked.
Finally, he pulled to the first window, handing the cashier his money. His arm was waving wildly and again; I could hear the cursing directed at the cashier. I watched as he repeated his actions when he pulled to the second window. He received his food and peeled out of the parking lot.
As I pulled up to the window to pay for my order, I felt the Spirit nudging me to speak life-giving words to the cashier.
Her face and body language told the story of the snark attack she had just been the victim of and how it affected her. After handing her my money, I gently said, “Don’t let people like that ruin your day.” She looked at me and said, “I didn’t even take his order.” Then she opened up and told me other cruel things the passenger in the vehicle did.
The change in her countenance was evident as I encouraged her again before pulling away. It would have been easy for me to pay and go on my way, but I’m glad I didn’t. Because I obeyed the Spirit’s prompting, I didn’t miss an opportunity to speak life-giving words to someone.
I was a little reluctant to share this story, not wanting to give the impression I have my act altogether. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I get it wrong more often than I care to admit.
It breaks my heart when I think of how many opportunities I have missed because I wasn’t in tune with the Spirit.
One of the most life-impacting quotes I have ever read is one I came across several years ago by John Ortberg. He wrote, “Every time two people make contact, they come away feeling either better and more encouraged or worse and more depleted. It is as if we carry our own little ATM around with us all the time, and each encounter we are either making deposits or withdrawals on the vitality of those around us.”
The first thing I did after reading that quote was cry. I cried for the times I have made withdrawals from the lives of those I encounter because of my snarky words. And I cried as I remembered the snarky words spoken to me. Then I gave it to Jesus and asked Him to remind me always to speak words of life into others.
Now, when I encounter anyone (in person, on the phone, on social media or wherever) I ask myself, “Am I making a deposit or a withdrawal?”
I don’t get it right every time, but I can see I am growing in this area of my life as I surrender it to Him.
SURVIVING IN A SNARK INFECTED WORLD
What can we do when we are the victim of snarky words? Take it to God and seek His wisdom. Ask Him to guard your heart against toxic (snarky) words.
Then take a moment and write down conversations that wounded your heart. Next give them to God in prayer, asking for healing. Now, recall and write down life-giving words that others have spoken to you. Thank God, not just for those words but for whom He used to speak them to you.
This week think of ways you can be intentional in speaking life-giving words to others.
What words have stuck with you over the years? How do they affect how you use your words with others today?