Whenever I have to come up with random trivia about myself in a get-to-know-you game, I always revert to the not-so-flattering fact that both times in my life when I’ve been in a theatrical production, I was cast as a witch. Great, huh? I prefer not to think about the unspoken implication of those two assignments.
In the 5th grade, I was told I had a great cackle as I was chosen to be the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz back at Montclair Elementary School. Supposedly, it wasn’t my cackle, but my height that landed me the role of the double of the witch of Into the Woods. I had no lines. I only had to stand on stage a couple of times to give the appearance of the witch, while the actual witch (who was also 5’11” and actually went on to have a career in film and TV) had a quick costume change.
The one thing I remember about Into the Woods was the lyrics of one of the songs, Children will Listen. It said:
Careful the things you say,
Children will listen.
Careful the things you do,
Children will see.
I’ve been thinking about these lyrics, not just in light of children… but for all of us, young or not so much. Words hold more power over us than anyone would ever want to admit. As I was recently leaving church, I had two relatively brief, unrelated conversations. The people may have been unrelated, but their experiences weren’t. One spoke of how a comment they’d heard at church had left their daughter wondering if Christians were actually as loving as we often claim. The other mentioned in passing that a congratulatory remark her adult son had heard offended him, so he wouldn’t return.
I couldn’t believe what I’d heard. Knowing both of the people who’d spoken the offending words, and the context, I knew both would be horrified to realize the unintended consequences of just a few sentences they’d spoken. In reality, they’d said nothing wrong. The words weren’t unkind, but simply didn’t consider the circumstances of the hearer. And the enemy had taken the opportunity to cast a little doubt and twist a few words. That’s all it took to cause two people to reconsider church.
It was a reminder to me that as a follower of Christ, there are two responsibilities I need to commit to fulfilling. First, I must make sure my words are always honoring to the Lord and sensitive to anyone who may hear them. I recently heard a ministry leader say, “Funny thing: Those who don’t know Christ are quite intelligent.” We can never give context to every word we speak and all of us can be misunderstood, but the chance is much less when we realize the power of words and we use them wisely. Second, I must be intentional to ask the Lord to go before me and to guard against any ways the enemy might want to thwart my intentions or have my words cause harm.
That same day, I learned the only reason I was made aware of one of these situations was the result of God answering a prayer. God really is that involved in every detail of our lives. May we ask Him for His heartbeat to be conveyed through our words and for His protection over the things we say.
What about you?
- Will you commit to intentionally asking the Lord to give you wisdom and protection over your words?
- Is there anyone you need to seek out to make sure you haven’t wounded (intentionally or unintentionally) with your words?