by PASTOR SCOTT SWIX
Hope Community Church
A couple of years ago there was a wonderful animated movie called “Up” in which a house is carried away by thousands of helium balloons to take the old man and the young scout on an adventure. No one balloon could do it, but put enough together… and you could fly.
The idea of each of those balloons helping lift the house is a bit similar to how the words we choose and use help lift our relationships with others and help them fly—or drag them back down to the ground. Think of each caring, loving, encouraging word as one of the balloons. It provides lift. Each negative word, each insult, each put-down, each word of anger drags the relationship back into the mud again. What’s worse, studies have shown that negative words weigh more than loving words lift up. Seems that we remember those mean words longer. It takes 10 words of encouragement to balance one harsh one; sometimes even more than that, depending on what was said. It’s hard to believe and trust the nice things someone says if we keep hearing nasty ones as well.
Well, there’s lots of wisdom in keeping our tongues in check and our words to ourselves. The Bible’s book of Proverbs is full of great advice and reminders of the damage that harsh words cause and the benefits of loving ones, such as 12:18, “Reckless words pierce like a sword but the tongue of the wise brings healing,” and 16:23, “A wise man’s heart guides his mouth,” which are just two of many.
Jesus reminds us that what comes out of our mouths really defines us. But in this electronic age it isn’t just the spoken word. One on one, live, we can have enough trouble. Texting and instant messaging appear to make us choose worse words—the person isn’t right there with us, and folks say things that they wouldn’t say in person.
Verbal bullying in online social media is another example, where blogging and website “comment” sections take it even further. Reviews of these remote and often anonymous electronic forums show them often full of extremely judgmental, disrespectful and insulting responses—all to people we don’t really even know.
Much of our current culture exhibits and almost encourages shouting-down and insults that destroy effective communication and relationships. And in so doing, we alienate others and isolate ourselves. We often don’t realize how our own words have made our own lives worse.
The alternative really is “loving words”—consciously, intentionally, shared words of encouragement, thanks, and appreciation—even for folks that disagree with us. These build others up, and in so doing also build our relationships with them. Working on the habit of sharing loving words is important in every family, between spouses and between parents and kids, and at work and school. In the end, that really is one of God’s great goals and dreams for us: to have healthy and loving relationships with each other.