“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings for evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgement. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
As a child and a young person at a Christian college, I often heard these verses used to discuss why we shouldn’t use foul language and bad words. I honestly believed that I was going to give an account before the throne of God on the day of judgement of every slang or curse word I used. My parents, religious leaders, and professors wanted me to be a nice young lady with a nice clean mouth.
I’ll admit right now that they didn’t get what they wanted. I’m not all that nice (See: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=nice) and I have a potty mouth.
When I think of the words I’ve spoken that have wounded others, the wounding word is never the F word. The word “stupid” can be as or more wounding as the word “bitch”. The phrase “You are weird” can be as or more hurtful and excluding as “Go away dumbass”. Words that sting like “If only you were as pretty as your sister” or whatever other comparison that we make between children, siblings, lovers, friends, etc. can’t be taken back even when we “didn’t mean it”. Dismissive, rude, unkind words singe the heart and yet we are shocked when those around us start to build fire-retardant walls around their hearts to keep the damage to a minimum.
Just yesterday I had a conversation with a dear friend where we both realized and admitted that we’ve been affected by our environment and surroundings and losing sight of the humanity of others. I find that sometimes even when my words are respectful, my thoughts are not. At times I’ve been so afraid of not being heard that I’ve stopped listening. Or so afraid of being hurt that I stopped being open or vulnerable. And if that is happening to someone like me who is relational at her core and loves people…why are we surprised when those that we haven’t trained to recognize the humanity in others hurt, murder, slay, or maim with word or deed?
Matthew Henry in his commentary on this same passage of scripture says:
“Men’s language discovers what country they are of, likewise what manner of spirit they are of. The heart is the fountain, words are the streams. A troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring, must send forth muddy and unpleasant streams. Nothing but the salt of grace, cast into the spring, will heal the waters, season the speech, and purify the corrupt communication.”
To the trained ear, my language, words, and inflection can tell the story of a girl from the West Coast who has lived among southerners and dwelt with the people of the Southwest. As Henry says you can “discover what country” I am of.
But I’m far more interested in being a person who’s words indicate what “manner of spirit” I am of to those who listen. I want my spoken words, written words, and body language to send a message of kindness, love, grace, and friendship. I so want my mouth to speak good, helpful, true, and beautiful things out of the “abundance of my heart”. That doesn’t mean I won’t ever say something that hurts another because even the most sweetly spoken truth can hurt. But I want it to be the kind of hurt that builds relationship rather than breaking it down.
If we call ourselves Christians, may our Facebook posts, interactions in business meetings, and mornings words to our loved ones flow from a heart filled with love that would make Jesus smile. If we are Buddhists, may we speak peace into those circumstances. If we are Jewish…Muslim…Hindu…Atheist…etc. may we use our words to bless and not curse. (And by curse I don’t mean you can’t say Shit…because I do…Oh…I just did!)
XOXO my darling friends this Sunday. May you be loved beyond measure for being exactly who you are today!