What is the most powerful muscle in the human body? The muscle that exerts the greatest force is the soleus, or calf muscle. It contracts to keep us standing upright and without it we would be unable to stand, let alone walk. The muscle that exerts the greatest pressure is the masseter, or jaw muscle. It gives us the ability to clench our teeth and to chew tough foods like dried meats. The heart is the most durable muscle, it beats about 40 million times a year and continues over a lifetime without rest. Yet, the muscle with the greatest power and versatility remains the tongue. Greater than its ability to articulate speech, coordinate swallowing, or provide taste, its greatest power lies in its ability to communicate our thoughts. The tongue has the power to wage war or create peace, to build up or tear down, to cause pain or provide healing. In fact, I would say that our words may be the most powerful weapon mankind possesses.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.Proverbs 18:21
Why are words so powerful? They reveal what is in our hearts and minds. Nothing could be more personal, both in expressing them and in receiving them. When words are used as weapons, it immediately halts any meaningful communication. Is it any surprise that a verbal attack causes defensiveness? Although we may try to ignore or shrug off an insult, hurtful words cut deep into our self esteem. We heal from these comments, but scars are often left behind. When we start to hear these words consistently or from multiple sources they can cause irreparable harm that can haunt us throughout our lives.
The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.Proverbs 15:4
My pastor had a recent sermon about taming the tongue, and in it he highlighted five different criteria we should ask before expressing our thoughts to others. They followed the acronym: THINK. We should all learn to think before we speak.
T – True Is what I have to say true?
This means separating out my feelings and opinions from fact. We feel many things and we hear many things… but are the TRUE? If we don’t know that what we are saying is factually true, we are merely spreading gossip or misinformation.
Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.Psalm 120:2
H – Helpful Are my comments helpful?
My words should be constructive and help to solve problems rather than cause them. What is my motivation for sharing my thoughts and who benefits from these comments? If a comment points out fault without proposing a solution it is destructive not constructive.
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.Proverbs 15:1-2
I – Inspiring Are my words inspiring?
When we speak to others we have the ability to impact their entire day. Negativity is infectious and can spread from person to person if the cycle is not broken. Will my comments encourage and lift others up or will they tear others down? Angry or negative comments may help to blow off steam, but it comes at the price of unknown hurt to another.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.Psalm 19:14
N – Necessary Is what I have to say necessary?
We all have many thoughts throughout the day, they don’t all need to be shared. What is the purpose of talking? It is to communicate ideas, thoughts and feelings with others, not to simply hear ourselves talk. It is not necessary to share controversial opinions with anyone and everyone. If a comment will only generate conflict and and discord with others, it may not be necessary to share.
I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”Matthew 12:36-37
K – Kind Are my words kind?
Kindness is more than being a nice person, it demonstrates a genuine concern for others and their well-being. It is demonstrated when we show consideration for the feelings of others, and often involves willing acts of self-sacrifice. Speaking kind words means that we hold back our anger, frustration, or opinions for the good of the other person. When we lose our tempers we often say things we don’t mean, hurting our relationships with others. Sharing words of kindness helps us to maintain harmony with each other.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to angerJames 1:19
We are called to let the light of the Holy Spirit shine through us, to be light in the darkness. That starts with our words and should be backed up by our actions. We cannot share the love and goodness of God if we can’t control our tongues.