“You always sound so pleasant when you talk to your girls,” I said after I listened to my friend instruct one of her young children on how to get along with her sibling.
My friend paused and cocked her head to one side, thinking. After a moment of lingering on my comment, she said, “Thank you for saying that, because it’s really, really hard sometimes.”
I nodded my head in agreement.
It is hard.
It’s hard to keep a pleasant tone of voice all the time when talking to our children. Especially when those children are interrupting, whining, misbehaving, or any other number of things children sometimes bring to their parents.
My friend went on to say, while she isn’t always pleasant, over the past several years of teaching in a classroom, she thinks it’s become habit — a habit due to over-compensating her “niceness” in the classroom. As a teacher she feels it is especially important, because she knows that for many of her students, how and what she says to them may be the only pleasantness they hear that day.
She knows her words and tone live long past the moment they escape her lips.
My gut twisted at the observation of her student’s families.
You see, she teaches at an incredible school, one that is highly regarded in the community, in a great part of town, with great families who love and dote on their children, providing for their every need. Families I would call pleasant and would never expected to be at the receiving end of her observation.
In fact, my own children attend her school.
And yet, for many of the students, her pleasant tone of voice may be the only one they hear that day.
“The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4)
I thought about my speech toward my children.
How many times have I said something to them, and without even realizing it, sounded harsh? Maybe something I didn’t even mean to be harsh. Maybe I meant it in a nice way, but it didn’t sound particularly nice.
Maybe I need to think about making a habit of “overcompensating my niceness” in the way I speak. Maybe we all need to think and practice a little more pleasantness in our words and tone.
Maybe it’s as simple as thinking before we speak — being intentional with how our words sound coming out of our mouth.
Because how and what we say lives long past the moment we say it.
This is why Proverbs 18:21 says that “death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
Have you noticed how this proverb doesn’t say (in almost every single translation), that only what is said has the power of life and death? Instead, it’s the entire tongue that has the power of life and death — the whole instrument of speech, which controls also how we say it.
“Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3)
The Bible has an abundance to say about words, language, tongues, and how we are to speak to and about people. I’ve come to know that if there is a repeated topic the God shares in His Word, then I’d better pay attention.
Even when … no, especially when I think it may not necessarily apply to me.
Because most often it does.
My friend unknowingly reminded me that my family is not exempt from this Truth. The entire Bible is relevant to my life — all of our lives — and this guarding of the tongue is something we all should make a better habit of.
Would you join me?
Let’s pray for God’s help, discernment, and wisdom with our speech. Let’s invite the Holy Spirit into not just our minds and hearts, but also our mouths. Because sometimes I think we may forget to let Him control that part of us too.
Let’s make it a habit, like my friend has, to set a guard over our mouths and have a soothing tongue, so those who love it may eat its fruit. Because those words we say, they have the power of life and death. (Psalm 141: 3, Proverbs 15:4, 18:21)