Though statistics vary, researchers agree the average male speaks about 2,000 words per day while women surpass that number by five to ten times. However, for both genders, words of import or relevance fall below 1,000 per day.
What does that say about our conversations? Volumes.
Does it matter if women use more words to say the same thing men do with fewer? And what are those additional words all about?
We hold the key to life or death, blessing or cursing, encouragement or ridicule in our words.
Research indicates some words are pleasing, some irrelevant, some need further evaluation prior to uttering, but a majority fall into the category of unacceptable speech. This means not every word should be vocalized.
Recently, while talking with a group of women after Bible Study, someone I hadn’t seen in months approached. After commenting how nice it was to see her, I tried to recall how long it’d been. She snapped, “Well, who’s to blame for that?” If I were a turtle, I’d have instantly retreated into my shell.
We’ve been exhorted to take every thought captive. What we think and then say has benefits and consequences—both for us and others—because words have power.
God spoke creation into existence by the power of His word. And except for rare circumstances, he created only humans with the gift of oral communication. We hold the key to life or death, blessing or cursing, encouragement or ridicule in our words.
“Let your conversation be always full of grace (and) seasoned with salt”
Our Heavenly Father values our words so much that one day we will be called to give an account for them (Matt. 12:36-37). Shouldn’t that make us think twice about what we say? In fact, we’re encouraged to speak words that build each other up (Eph.4:29), because they benefit both the listener and the speaker.
Popular culture urges us not to sugar coat our words. Be bold, let ’em rip. However, the apostle Paul recommends adding salt. “Let your conversation be always full of grace (and) seasoned with salt” (Col.4:6 NIV).
Ah, the benefits of salt. Used as an agent to inhibit bacteria and fungus, salt preserves a variety of foods. Salt seeps into food’s outer membrane and changes the molecular structure, forcing out moisture. This environment makes it difficult for mold and other dangerous agents to grow, keeping food nontoxic and nutritious.
Salt sounds like a great agent to add to our words to drive out what is unpleasant or harmful.
Where do our words come from? Matthew records Jesus’s thoughts on the matter. “…out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matt: 12:34b). It isn’t just our thought life that needs a make-over. Our hearts need an overhaul!
James cuts to the chase when he cautions that praises and cursings should not come from the same mouth (James 3:10). We need to choose—one or the other.
Credited as one of the wisest men on Earth, Solomon conveys his wisdom on our choice of words. “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Prov. 12:18, NIV). To me, this verse hits the mark: “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Prov. 16:24, ESV).
Does that mean we can never cast a “no” vote or reason that something would have a negative impact? Not at all. But, when we talk with each other, we can express ourselves constructively rather than in a demeaning, belittling, or shaming manner. The old carpentry adage says, measure twice, cut once. Maybe we can alter that to apply to our words: think twice, speak nice.
A survey once revealed nine positive comments are needed to negate a negative one. So, if we know all this about the power of our words and that we’re accountable for them, why do we weaponize our tongues? Why do we let our emotions flavor our words?
As Jesus says, it’s a matter of our hearts. God shows his heart in every one of his promises. He encourages us that if we do this, he is faithful. The truth is, even when we don’t hold up our end of the bargain, he is still true to himself. He will do what he said he would. He works in us to bring about everything for our good and His glory.
Take a look around. Encouragement is needed! By the way, don’t we all respond well to an encouraging word rather than criticsm?
If our goal is to be known by our love, salted words can provide encouragement, hope, and healing.
Imagine the impact we could have this year, if we take God at his word and focus our thoughts on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable (Phil.4:8). Then words of encouragement will flow, and the meditation of our hearts will be acceptable in his sight (Psalm 19:14).