Language can be a funny thing sometimes; where a certain group of words can take on entirely different meanings depending upon how they are heard or read by the receiving person.
Allow me to present to you the following amusing headlines published in various newspapers from around the world as an example of how perceptions can change the meaning of the intended phrases:
– Red Tape Holds Up New Bridge
– Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead
– Man Struck by Lightning Faces Battery Charge
– New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group
– Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft
– Kids Make Nutritious Snacks
– Chef Throws His Heart into Helping Feed Needy
– Arson Suspect is Held in Massachusetts Fire
– British Union Finds Dwarfs in Short Supply
– Lansing Residents Can Drop Off Trees
– Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half
– New Vaccine May Contain Rabies
– Man Minus Ear Waives Hearing
– Bank Drive-in Window Blocked by Board
– Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors
Now we all know what the headlines actually mean, but one can not ignore the humorous aspects of at least some of those headlines.
When I read these headlines this week, it got me thinking all the more about not only the importance of the words we speak, but also how the people that we are speaking to actually perceive those words. Since we know that our words carry the very powers of life and death, it makes it all the more important that we take great care in how we phrase our speech when dealing with others, since if we are not careful, the possibility of a misunderstanding or miscommunication will be greatly increased.
The Bible warns of unguarded words in many places, but the two that stood out the most for me are Proverbs 12:17-19:
“He that speaketh truth sheweth forth righteousness: but a false witness deceit.
There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.
The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment.”
And also Proverbs 15:1-2:
“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.”
Many times, I have intended to help someone, and the words I have spoken, while technically correct, were said in a less than loving manner, and actually ended up doing more harm than good because of the improperly harsh way that I had spoken them at the time. So while it may sound simplistic, in many ways it is indeed not just important what we are trying to say at the time, but how we are saying it, as that will have a huge impact on whether the person we are speaking to actually receives what we are saying or whether they reject it due to some kind of offense, even if our intentions were good.
So this week I am paying a lot of attention on how I phrase the things I speak, and I pray that the Lord helps me to show His love through the words that exit my mouth.