The words we use in a relationship can build up or tear down the relationship, for words affect people much more than what we might originally imagine. Scripture reminds us, "The loose tongue of the godless spreads destruction; the common sense of the godly preserves them." (Proverbs 11:9 MSG) A "loose tongue" is like a loaded canon - it fires loudly, aims blindly, and leaves a gaping hole when it lands. There are a lot of ways to classify the words we speak, but none does more damage than those which arise out of either bad character or bad conduct. These words tend to lean toward the side of being a little less than refreshing and restoring. Just like the canon ball, they cause a lot of discomfort and leave an offensive "after-taste". If you have ever smelled spent gunpowder, you know the offensive "after-taste" I am referring to. It kind of stings your nose and sours your taste. A loose tongue has a pretty similar action in the lives of those on the receiving AND sending end of it!
When you’re kind to others, you help yourself; when you’re cruel to others, you hurt yourself. (Proverbs 11:17 MSG)
Loose tongued folks seem to be oblivious to the sorrow they bring, don't they? They just open up and let it go - not really concerned with the destructiveness which will tear huge holes into the relationship. The first "hole" left by their "canon ball" will likely heal in time, but if there are repeated "holes" created by their words, the relationship begins to crumble. People eventually turn away from what brings them pain - only sadistic people seek out pain! "Mean-spirited slander is heartless; quiet discretion accompanies good sense." (vs. 12 MSG) Wise discernment rescues the godly - because they sense when it is the right time to speak and the best time to remain silent. Just as importantly, they know what the right words are in the right season.
The way we live affects other people - we cannot escape this truth. No man or woman lives only to themselves. Try as we might, we can only isolate ourselves so much - eventually we will affect others, even if it is by our isolation! Both action and inaction have an affect on those around us. When the godly are in the midst of our "community", there is something of a blessing upon the community just by their presence. The upright become a blessing to those they share community among - because their influence is unmatched by anything this world has to offer.
If you haven't stopped to think about this in a while, it is important to remember your "neighbor" is more than a nearby person who shares a cubicle in your workplace, pulls into the garage next door to you, or enjoys a cup of coffee at your local coffee house each morning at the table next to yours. Your neighbor is your "fellowman" - someone with a kindred spirit - sometimes hurting more than you know. They may have been subject to the canon balls of others who forgot about how we each share this kindred spirit. They might just be looking for someone to help them patch the holes left by the loose tongued attacks of another. Who we become to our neighbor often speaks much about who we have become as a person in Christ Jesus.
Just as important as recognizing we share space with men and women of kindred spirit is this idea of being led by great leaders. We all know sometimes our leaders fail us. As I write these words today, our government leaders in the United States are failing us with their inability to work toward compromise over the budget. Essentially, the government officials have "locked heads" and refuse to budge. Maybe this is because there are so many "leaders" attempting to create the agenda. Truth is, we can only be led by one leader at a time! Good leaders do a great deal to determine our "wealth". Not just the wealth of the country, but the wealth of the soul. The most influential leaders I know are those who lead with passion - but misdirected passion of any sort will lead to bad decisions. In relationships of all kinds, one leads and another follows. Even if it is just something as simple as deciding where to eat tonight - one leads, the other follows. This is why it is always so essential to remember the "kindred" nature of the other - not demanding our own way, ruthlessly declaring the way it will be, or creating discomfort for the other by the way we lead when it is our "turn" to lead.
As we wrap this up today, let me end with the idea of "nourishing" with your words. We need to become excellent at nourishing the soul of our fellowman. We do this through deeds which build up. God expects us to be sensitive to the condition of another's soul and spirit. In doing so, we exhibit the nature of God to those who "neighbor" in our communities. How agreeable are your words? If you find your words have pushed your neighbor a little further away than you might have liked, today is your opportunity to become a little more "tight lipped" with your words! Just sayin!