The Power of the Tongue

speak-love

By Elizabeth Strayer

Proverbs 18:21
“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

I remember my mom saying, “If you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all.” I didn’t realize at that time how true that statement was, and I know I have repeated it so many times to my boys in the past several years. Last year however, I put a new twist on it and did not realize the effect or that I would feel the fruit from it for a year.

I was involved in a Christmas production at church and let’s just say my insecurities were getting the best of me. I didn’t think I was doing well enough, my voice was not rich enough, my tone was off- you know the “poor pitiful me” road that we travel down too many times in life. I will say my feelings were tainting my mood and my outlook. There was a young lady whose voice was absolutely beautiful.  The rich tone and precision of her instrument was breathtaking. She knew all her words and hit the notes with such power and depth that you just stood there and listened with anticipation for the next note.  So I am not sure I saw her personality from a clear perspective if you know what I mean.  She seemed to know she was good and would get very agitated when someone else missed their note or place. She would whisper to a friend, and I (in a fragile state of mind) assumed her whispers had something to do with how off I was at the time. Well I have an expression: “I was on my last nerve and it was getting thin” by the end of the 6th night’s performance. 

We had just stepped off the stage at the conclusion and for some reason I saw her standing over to the side.  I walked up embraced her with congratulation for a great performance and started speaking. I told her that she had the radiance of the Holy Spirit upon her, that God had blessed her with an incredible voice that would allow her to move those from desperation to hope. She had great power in her voice and her tongue and that the words would speak life into others and to use it wisely as God had intended. I asked if I could pray for her, she had a commission and purpose on her life. That was it.  We hugged, and I left.

Fast forward.  Here it is Christmas time again, and the Christmas production is back on.  Well on the first night we were sitting in the dressing room, and we could hear the cast members on stage. This is our outreach night so we hear the leader of our Outreach program give his testimony and share, saying if you need prayer follow me and we have several people that would love to pray for you. At that moment, this same girl turns to me and after giving such loving complements about the Outreach leader she says, “Do you remember last year when you spoke over me?  Well you changed my life.  I had never had anyone speak over me before and that was the first time I had ever had anyone pray for or over me. Since that time God has given me a greater freedom in my worship so thank you.”  My heart melted, not because I had done anything miraculous but because I did not speak what I was feeling a year ago. God spoke through me to her, and it made a strong impression.  Now I wish I could say that I do that all the time and with my own family, children and friends, but I cannot. I can say that I now have a whole new perspective on the power of the tongue, and we can each breathe life or death in to everyone we encounter.

Prayer – Heavenly Father, I pray that I always see those around me with Your eyes and not with mine. That I speak life into them and you breathed life into me. I pray that everyone has a fresh new look at those they encounter and know that you are always present and they might just be the vessel used to tell someone else that YOU love them. May peace be in your heart for this Christmas season and love be all around you. Thank you Father for your grace and love may we always walk in truth and compassion.  In Jesus Holy name Amen.

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I Just Don’t Have the Shoes

By Cortney Donelson

Matthew 7:2 (NLT)
“For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”

There is a very famous and well-intentioned saying out there.  This quote has been around for generations.  In fact, it is such a long-standing adage that no one quite knows for sure who first said it, although many give credit to the Native Americans. “To understand a man, you must first walk a mile in his moccasins”.  Moccasins was later changed to shoes.

This popular quote even influenced the writing of a similar line in a famous book.  “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it,” was spoken by Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

As I said, the message is well-intentioned. I grew up learning this very lesson. It does deter some criticism and helps people see some things from a different perspective. Frequently, I will put myself in another person’s “shoes” to try to understand the decisions he or she made or the actions they took. And, guess what? It often gets me into trouble…

God created us uniquely. We each have our own personalities, experiences, thoughts, biases, views of right and wrong, and temperaments. We value different things. We have different tastes. We see the world through our eyes only. And, thank God we do! Our differences help us think creatively, avoid boredom, and develop innovative solutions.  I value our differences…God cherishes them.

The phrase “to walk in another’s shoes” means to step outside your own perspective and look at a situation from someone else’s perspective. Unfortunately, if we do this, there is the possibility for us to make a dangerous assumption. Each person is shaped by his and her experiences and personalities, from the day he or she is born. Our opinions, our tendencies, our perspectives, and our decisions are steered by our entire life story. When we “walk in another’s shoes”, we are viewing one specific situation or decision that individual has made. And, we are looking at that decision through our lenses, with our backgrounds, our successes, our hurts, and our failures all influencing our opinion of that one circumstance. I believe this can lead us down the path of judgment because our assumption is that someone else’s life story should have shaped that individual the same way we were influenced by our own. That is the assumption I know I, for one, need to avoid!

It is precisely because of our diversity that I think the quote below is much more significant and can have a greater impact on our lives:

“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It’s one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it’s another to think that yours is the only path.” -Paulo Coelho

I contend we can never truly climb into someone’s skin, step into their shoes, and know all of who they are or what makes them tick. We live in our own realities, shaped by years of unique experiences and our one-of-a-kind DNA. To try to step into someone else’s reality can often cause misunderstandings that can lead to increased conflict and pain. I know…I’ve been there.

By no means am I saying that trying to understand another’s perspective is wrong! It is good! Extremely good! I think where we mistep is when we add our own judgments to those perspectives without giving credit to the fact that we cannot fully know another’s world. So I, for one, am going to work on agreeing to disagree without thinking someone is wrong just because I put myself in her shoes and did not see something the way she did or understood her actions or behavior.

Biblically, we are advised to avoid judging others.  And, if we do judge someone else, according to Matthew 7:2, God will judge us using the same standard. As I thought about this verse and its relationship to that famous adage, I realized that I cannot judge someone’s motives fairly. I certainly don’t want my motives, actions, and decisions to be judged against God, who is good, perfect, and holy. I would fail every time. So, no matter what people say or do, I cannot truly understand their perspectives just by “walking a mile in their shoes”. I would have to walk a million miles, over the course of their entire lifetime. I don’t know about you, but I just don’t have the shoes for that….

Prayer – Father, thank you for the hard but loving truths in your Word. Thank you for our diversity. I pray I refrain from judging someone’s actions or words based on my own unique reality for I would never want to be judged by that standard myself. Jesus died for us so that the chasm separating us from God could be bridged.  And, for that, I am forever grateful. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!