"If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." This old adage rings true even today. Why? Because words are powerful. Proverbs 18:21 tells us that "death and life are in the power of the tongue". The things we say to ourselves (self-talk) and others will either edify or bring ruin.
My great-grandmother, Minnie, whom we affectionately called "Mama" was big on this principle. Though small in stature, barely standing five-feet tall, she stood tall in spirit and the principles of God's Word. She was a very wise woman who had little tolerance for foolishness and did not mince words. She would often say, "That little red piece of flannel in your mouth (referring to the tongue), will get you in a world of trouble!" How accurate she was! We would do well to adhere to the principles of God's Word as Miss Minnie did.
Have you ever been on the receiving end of harsh words? Can you recall how those words made you feel? Humiliated? Angry? Sad? Ashamed? Fearful? Or have you been the one doling them out? Have your words humiliated, evoked anger, saddened, produced shame, or instilled fear? Words that are cruel, demeaning, critical, or abusive can have debilitating effects on the recipient. They are like a snake's venom, destroying from the inside out. Once they have been injected into our psyche, we feel great pain and search for an antidote.
On the flip side, words of encouragement, praise, and affirmation can empower. Perhaps you can recall the encouragement of a teacher or coach. Or, maybe it was the praise of a parent, your spouse cheering you on, or the acknowledgement of a job well done from an employer. How did those words make you feel? Motivated? Elated? Encouraged? Inspired? Happy? The impact of those words probably still resonates within you because they were life-giving and esteem-building.
The next time you find yourself about to speak negatively of yourself or someone else, chose your words wisely. Remember, we are not merely speaking vacuous words, we are executing power! The words that we speak to ourselves, our spouses, our children, employees, family members, co-workers, etc.-- either positive or negative--will have lasting effects.