Youch! Words can hurt. The old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was the “yaboo-sucks” of the playground when I was a kid. If you were bullied you were expected to pick yourself up and react with those words, retaining your dignity. In life we may well experience times when we are dealt with badly by random people – someone in a shop, or someone on the street. We know better than to be overly bothered by the opinions, and “perverse tongues” of strangers, but those words can be very hurtful. It is much worse when they come from those close to us. No one can hurt you or wound you like family, loves, or friends.
In general it ought to be assumed that a careless word here or an abrupt word there is not intended to harm – indeed while we are told to guard our tongues, it is the perverse tongue which seems to have the power to harm us the most.
Proverbs 15:4 says:
A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit. [KJV]
There are many different translations of this proverb, and you can see them all here: Link. I think it takes looking at the original words and their meanings to bring out the full depth of meaning this verse has:
Let’s look at three words here. You can do this word study yourself at the link here.
Firstly marpe, Strong’s 4832. For brevity I will use only the Strong’s exhaustive concordance, it’ll make the images easier to read. You can read the full page at the link above.
Healing – curative – wholesome. So a tongue which is healing (some translations say soothing, but healing is more correct, I think) is a tree of life! So when we build people up, we do them good!
Next let’s look at waselep, Strong’s 5558.
A tongue which is perverse – distorted – vicious. Ouch, we’ve all known people like that, haven’t we? We avoid them when we can!
Lastly let’s look at seber, Strong’s 7667, which deals with the effect this perverse, vicious tongue has on our spirit!
It can fracture – ruin – destroy our spirit. So when people say cruel things, when they are perverted (which means to be vicious, cruel – some translations say devious) they can fracture, ruin and destroy our spirit within us.
If you know someone like that, whilst it’s imperative for you to forgive (which is a decision, NOT a feeling – if you are struggling with that give it to God, He’ll get your feelings into alignment with your decision if you surrender it to Him) it’s also very wise to protect yourself from that person at all costs.
I’d also like to remind you that this goes both ways. It is not just the barbed words of others which can fracture your spirit within you, but your words also can affect your own spirit, not only other people’s!
James 3:6 tells us:
And the tongue is a fire. The world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature, and is set on fire by Gehenna. [WEB]
Jesus also tells us in Matthew 15:11:
Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. [KJV]
Our words can defile us, as well as hurt others. Our perverse tongue wounds others and destroys us too.
In conclusion, we must always be ready to speak truth in love – to rebuke with love, and to speak the truth. This can be shocking to others, but it does them good! It is constructive! But when our words are not constructive, they can be destructive. If we mock, berate or demean others we are hurting their spirit, breaking them down and bringing them to a point where their spirit is fractured, or even destroyed. Our intentions – the intentions behind our words and actions – mean everything!
I wish you Shabbat Shalom, dear brothers and sisters!
God Bless you