To Heal and to Guide


 
Words are powerful things. They can heal or wound. They can guide or mislead. Words shape our moods and affect our actions. This perspective on words is common sense, and the Book of Proverbs is nothing if not a book of divinely inspired common sense.
 
Consider, first of all, the power of words to heal or wound.
 
An anxious heart weighs a man down,
but a kind word cheers him up (12:25).
 
A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger (15:1).
 
Pleasant words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones (16:24).
 
By contrast with “a kind word,” “a gentle answer,” and “pleasant words” are words that command, commend, or conspire to do violence against others.
 
Blessings crown the head of the righteous,
but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked (10:6).
 
The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood,
but the speech of the upright rescues them (12:6).
 
From the fruit of his lips a man enjoys good things,
but the unfaithful have a craving for violence (13:2).
 
Proverbs 30:14 graphically speaks in this way of those whose words wound:
 
those whose teeth are swords
and whose jaws are set with knives
to devour the poor from the earth,
the needy from among mankind.
 
When you speak, then, choose words that heal, not words that wound.
 
Words also have the power to guide or to mislead. They are intimately tied up with wisdom or with foolishness, with the right course of action or the wrong one. Righteous words (wise words leading to right courses of action) are valuable.
 
The tongue of the righteous is choice silver,
but the heart of the wicked is of little value.
The lips of the righteous nourish many,
but fools die for lack of judgment (10:20-21).
 
The lips of the wise spread knowledge;
not so the hearts of fools (15:7).
 
Righteous words lead to good outcomes.
 
The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom,
but a perverse tongue will be cut out.
The lips of the righteous know what is fitting,
but the mouth of the wicked only what is perverse (10:31-32).
 
These outcomes are good for both the wise speaker…
 
A fool’s talk brings a rod to his back,
but the lips of the wise protect them (14:3).
 
… speaker and for the people he speaks to.
 
Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed (11:11).
 
By contrast, foolish words are bad for the fool and for everyone else.
 
A fool’s lips bring him strife,
and his mouth invites a beating.
A fool’s mouth is his undoing,
and his lips are a snare to his soul.
The words of a gossip are like choice morsels;
they go down to a man’s inmost parts (18:6-8).
 
 
Wisdom is too high for a fool;
in the assembly at the gate he has nothing to say.
He who plots evil
will be known as a schemer.
The schemes of folly are sin,
and men detest a mocker (24:7-9).
 
Better to live on a corner of the roof
than share a house with a quarrelsome wife (25:24).
 
In the case of that last proverb, the same truth applies to quarrelsome husbands.
 
So, choose true words. Choose healing words. And choose words of good guidance. Your wellbeing, not to mention the wellbeing of others, depends to a significant degree on your choice in these matters.

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