Does Your Speech Stab or Heal?
DURING these difficult times, it is hardly surprising that many are “broken at heart” and “crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) Thus, in the words of the apostle Paul, there is a constant need to “speak consolingly to the depressed souls” and to “support the weak.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14) But what if our fellowman offends us or does something seriously wrong? In such a situation, we might feel justified in simply chastising the individual. However, a caution is in order. Counsel, even when valid, can be harmful if it is delivered in a harsh manner. Proverbs 12:18 states: “There exists the one speaking thoughtlessly as with the stabs of a sword.”
Therefore, when we set out to offer correction or handle a misunderstanding, it is vital to remember the second part of Proverbs 12:18: “The tongue of the wise ones is a healing.” Always ask yourself, ‘If I needed correction, how would I want to be dealt with?’ Most of us are more responsive to encouragement than to criticism. So be generous with commendation. This will often give the offender the incentive to improve, and he will more likely be grateful for any help offered.
How vital it is always to temper our words with mildness! Healing words will leave the listener feeling as did the psalmist, who wrote: “Should the righteous one strike me, it would be a loving-kindness; and should he reprove me, it would be oil upon the head, which my head would not want to refuse.”—Psalm 141:5.