We are reposting, with permission, Steve Norman’s blog article that originally ran on his website stevejnorman.com on March 12, 2017. Check out his website for more of his writings.
Proverbs has brilliant, common sense reminders on how to handle your relationships. There’s a theme in Proverbs 12: It’s what happens when you use wise words. Consider these lines:
12:14 Wise words bring many benefits, and hard work brings rewards.
12:16 A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted.
12:18 Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.
Here’s the quick summary:
Wise words are beneficial.
Wise words are calming.
Wise words are healing.
The writer says “Wise words bring many benefits” and then goes on to say “Hard work brings rewards.” Isn’t it intriguing that he links wise words and hard work? I don’t know what it’s like for you, but I’ve learned the hard way that reckless words come easily.
When you never think about what you say, never consider their impact and never work to install a filter for your speech, it’s easy. At least in the short run. You get to say the first thing that pops into your head, you can respond to other’s disrespect disrespectfully and let the chips fall wherever they may.
But to exercise restraint, cultivate kindness, pull verbal punches? That’s not easy. It’s takes spiritual training and emotional intelligence to get to a point where your mouth is producing more wise words than not. The benefits, though, are worth it. Less drama, less needless conflict, less sarcasm and hurt feelings, less gossip and hurt feelings, less ego-driven criticism and hurt feelings. You get the picture.
Wise words create relational traction, spiritual wellbeing and emotional safety.
And wise words are calming. Wisdom pushes peace, inspires patience and always, always de-escalates. Unwise words are the match we throw into the gasoline of toxic emotions.
Throw reckless words into an environment of anxiety, fear, anger, arrogance or competition?
Then you better run for cover.
Someone is going to explode.
When insulted, wisdom counters with calm. Even when the insults are real, even with the slights are fully intended, even when the attacks really are personal, wisdom breathes deeply and waits before answering.
And even when harsh comments inflict deep wounds, as they always do, wise words are the antidote.
Yes, we can all recall one, or many, demeaning verbal grenades others have tossed our way.
Sure, we can respond with a full nuclear counter assault, but our attacks never seem to diminish the sting of the first cutting remark. The only answer is wise words.
I had an honest conversation with my ten-year old last week. She described a verbal altercation she had with an athletic opponent on the soccer field. In a candid moment, she said “I had to fight fire with fire.” She’s describing a natural, human, even justified response. But adding fire to fire only increases the amount of scorched square footage. Wisdom is the water that quenches the inferno.
Wise words. They’re not easy to get to, but they tend to make everything better.