Walls and Bridges

Growing up, there was an older couple I used to know who treated each other with compassion and kindness. Each time they spoke to each other, their words would build up their other person. Words like, thank you, I appreciate you, I love you, I forgive you,  and so on, would continue to instill value and worth into their spouse. By using these words they not only encouraged and established a strong marriage, they built a beautiful legacy for their children and grandchildren. 

Another couple of roughly the same age, were in a strained relationship. They did not choose to resolve conflict, but instead the wife would remember every slight, every time she felt hurt by her husband. When they had a disagreement, it would often turn into a full-fledged yelling match. She would pull out all of the past pain she felt and let it fly like arrows at his heart to try to inflict as much pain on him as she could. Their legacy was such a tale of woe and caution that many times their grandchildren would not visit because of the battlefield their house had become. 

I have watched people be taken apart by critical words spoken by those who were supposed to love the other person. Words that cut deeply, were spoken out of ignorance, and a lack of caring nearly destroyed the receiver of those criticisms. Due to these continued assaults on the heart, relationships that should have lasted a lifetime were torn down and all but destroyed. Because of words.

The words we speak can do one of two things, they can build walls that cause us to protect our hearts at all cost. These walls are high and thick, never letting in another, never allowing pain in, but also never allowing in trust, love, or faith. 

Or we can speak words that build bridges. Words that unite, drawing together two people, maybe two families, to find common ground, mercy, understanding, forgiveness, and grace to share throughout their lives. 

During the trials of Job, Job cried out, How long will you torment me and crush me with words (Job 19:2)? Job understood that while words may be mere wind, they have the ability to cut someone deeply. Look at the canyons of the west. Many were carved with water, but the marks of the wind are unmistakable. They whittle away at the rock until pieces are missing and the rock is changed forever. 

It is easy to know who the people are that have been whittled away by negative words. When they hear positive words, even if they are spoken by someone who truly loves them, they cannot be received, the previous damage has been too great. 

But oh, the precious sweetness of kind words. Proverbs 16:24 says it well, Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the taste and health to the body.  Hopefully, we’ve all experienced words like these. Words that warm the heart, encouraging the hearer, and instill a sense of blessing on them. Sadly these can be rare in a person’s life. So rare in fact, that when they are heard they are treated like lies and dismissed. 

When I was growing up, my mom would remind me to use my words with care. She knew that the childhood chant of sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me was not true. Words made a difference to everyone who heard them. When I became a believer, I found my mom’s wisdom backed by Scripture. Matthew 12:36 says, I tell you that on that day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. 

Ouch. 

The words to a popular song have been echoing in my head the last few days. The chorus says, Words can build us up, words can tear us down, build a fire in our hearts or put it out. So let my words be life, let my words be true, I don’t want to say a word unless it points the world back to You. (Hawk Nelson- Words). 

O Best Beloved, what things have you said when you were angry, hurt, tired, even hungry, that should be repented? What are you doing in your relationships ? Are you helping to build walls? Or bridges? Are you trying to leave a legacy that encourages others to do the same, or are you going to be held up as an example of caution as how not to treat others? 

Before you speak another word today, pray. Ask God to season your words with kindness, mercy, Grace, and compassion. To help you weed out the words that damage our ever-living-never-dying souls. God has given you tools in your words, it’s up to you to decide how to use them. 

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About gretchenr17

Wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend. Writer, farmer, fellow sojourner... at every turn I learn a bit more about God's wild mercies.
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