A wise person’s heart controls his speech,
and what he says helps others learn.
Pleasant words are ⌊like⌋ honey from a honeycomb—
sweet to the spirit and healthy for the body.
(Proverbs 16:23-24 GW)
(Context—Proverbs 16:16-24 GW)
An old children’s refrain goes, “Sticks and stones can hurt my bones but words can never hurt me.” The truth is—words can and do hurt. It’s not just about insults and taunts—those are certainly not pleasant words—but many other words can hurt us.
It can be as simple as words unspoken. Many a child, even spouses, never or rarely hear the words, “I love you,” or “I forgive you,” or any apology or admission of wrong.
How about unfair or false accusations? This happens a lot in homes and in workplaces, even classrooms, let alone in politics and social media.
One tactic interrogators and lawyers use is to sow doubt. This was commonly used in prison camps to break the spirit of POW’s. They would say things like, “Your family and country have forgotten you, “ and “No one is going to rescue you.”
Years ago, an assistant pastor told me I didn’t have a “shepherd’s heart.” It stunned me when I heard this and the wound went deep. It wasn’t true for me but it ended up being true of him. Through prayer and encouragement from others—especially my wife and close friends—the Lord gave me an accurate perspective.
The words we echo to ourselves—self-talk—can also be hurtful and damaging. So, yes, words from various sources and in different forms can and do hurt.
The surprising antidote is to hear and utter pleasant and truthful words—”sweet to the spirit and healthy for the body.” It may sound too simplistic but it’s true.
Certainly, the truth can be spoken harshly and be destructive when spoken with the intent to hurt. This is why understanding needs to be applied when speaking the truth.
As said in another place in the Bible, we are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). It’s not enough to just use nice words, as pleasant as they might be. The pleasant words spoken of here in Proverbs come from a wise person and are helpful not harmful (verse 23).
The foundation for pleasant words spoken with wisdom is the truth of God. The primary source of His truth for us is found in the Scriptures and is revealed to us by His Spirit to our mind and heart.
Whoever gives attention to the Lord’s word prospers, and blessed is the person who trusts the Lord. (Prov 16:20 GW)
This leads to understanding that is useful and beneficial—not only for those who hear pleasant words wisely spoken—but this divinely based understanding becomes a fountain of life for those who speak them (vss 21-22).
Let us be careful with our words—not speaking carelessly but wisely. When we choose to speak pleasant words in a wise way, it will bless and help others and bless us, as well.
The foundation for pleasant words spoken with wisdom is the truth of God, which leads to understanding that is useful and beneficial. Let us be careful with our words—not speaking carelessly but wisely— so we may bless and help others and be a blessing.
In your prayer times, ask the Lord to help you be mindful throughout the day in all your interactions with others, that you would speak wise and pleasant words.
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