Proverbs 17 has a lot to say about how we should speak, think, and act as a follower of God. It gives us examples of how our words are powerful. When we speak about others, our fleeting judgements of others, how we choose to speak and interact with others, all of these things leave lasting impressions. Words mold and create the world the speaker and the listener are living into, and they can either build up or tear down whole lives.
Maya Angelou once wrote, “Words are things. You must be careful, careful about calling people out of their names, using racial pejoratives and sexual pejoratives and all that ignorance. Don’t do that. Someday we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally in to you.” I believe this is what Proverbs 17 is trying to help us understand and guide our hearts through in our daily living.
Words people have said to me years ago still rattle around in my soul. The old children’s rhyme “I’m rubber, you’re glue whatever you say bounces off me and sticks on you!” is not necessarily true, I think all words affect the speaker and the intended recipient. Things that have been said to me have left deep memories, scars, and lasting impressions on my heart, bad and good. They have guided me towards and steered me away from, all kinds of good things and trouble. I still remember things I’ve said to people in anger and I feel remorse. We can try to let things go and move on, but words can be forgiven but they are very hard to be forgotten.
As a parent I know that my words are very powerful. Quite often one of my girls says, “Mom do you remember when you told me… or do you remember when you said…?” Often times I do remember, but sometimes I don’t have a clue of when or why I said what they have recalled. I always want my words to encourage them, to guide them, and to be filled with loving wisdom. Do I always achieve that goal? Of course not but being intentional with my words and tone of voice is a step in the right direction. My children are watching, listening, and learning from me as I interact with and speak about the world around me. I pray daily that my words and actions are authentic and filled with God’s love.
As you pray through and read Proverbs 17 today ask yourself what you have learned about the power of your words? Have you used your words to tear down or to encourage someone? What is one thing from your reading today that you need to start doing or stop doing to live into Proverbs 17: 17 “A friend loves at all time and a brother is born for adversity.”?