Relationships can often be improved simply by choosing words wisely.
Words are amazingly powerful.
They can build up or tear down, cause anger or soothe the soul. It’s all in how we use them.
Proverbs 16:24 says that “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”
Have you ever said something and then immediately regretted it? Maybe you knew that the words that just escaped your lips would set the tone for the entire day.
Or maybe even several days… Possibly even the duration of the relationship.
Sometimes pausing to think before I speak saves me a lot of heartache.
Other times, I just let the words fly without considering how they will affect others. And in turn affect me!
I want to get to the point that I stop to think every time I’m about to say something that might hurt someone’s feelings or make them mad.
Sometimes I need the same reminders, using the “THINK” acrostic that I have taught my elementary students over the years:
T = is it True?
H = is it Helpful?
I = is it Inspiring?
N = is it Necessary?
K = is it Kind?
I’m not talking about walking on egg shells with the ones we love. But rather, saying what needs to be said, but tempering each word with love and grace.
Proverbs 15:1 says “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
This is so true.
But what if the other person is yelling or speaking harshly to you? Nine times out of ten, it will still be to our benefit to reel the conversation in.
It’s impossible to have a shouting match if only one person is doing the shouting.
When you keep the tone and volume of your voice in check, it can end arguments or prevent them from happening in the first place.
And sometimes, it goes beyond tone and volume. Some things just don’t need to be said.
I remember being taught as a child “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
That is still good advice.
Sometimes we just need to keep our mouths shut to avoid damaging a relationship.
There are times when my lips literally itch to say things I know I shouldn’t. Sassy or sarcastic remarks that could be funny or might even put someone else in their place.
But at what cost?
Cutting comments don’t strengthen relationships. I would much rather have peace and harmony than that one little moment that felt really good. Just before I felt really bad.
That little comment that feels so good to say in that moment usually costs a lot more heartache than it’s worth.
We should choose our words with every member of the family.
So often we remember the first part of Ephesians 6…the part that commands children to “obey your parents”, but we forget that as parents, we are instructed to treat our children with dignity and respect.
Ephesians 6:4 says “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (This means mothers too.)
We have to discipline our children.
We have to be the voice of reason for our children.
But we do not need to tear our children down.
The respect we demand should be deserved, as they look to us as an example in maintaining relationships.
And then there’s marriage…
Proverbs 25:24 says it’s “Better to live on the corner of a roof than to share a house with a nagging wife.”
I don’t want to be that wife. I’m thinking there are times when I am that wife. But I don’t want to be.
There are times when I am tired and ill and grumpy and just not very nice. Snippy when I don’t even mean to be.
Times when I take things the wrong way and get my tail on my shoulders. When I snap first and think about it later.
But who I want to be is more like the woman in Proverbs 31, the one who her husband can trust. Who enriches his life. The one who brings him good, not harm.
That is the woman I want to be.
As for extended family and friends and coworkers and church members and whoever else, the same principles apply. (Read more here on workplace relationships.)
I tell my school kids, my own kids and anybody’s kids who will listen to treat others the way they want to be treated. As simple as it sounds, we as adults can gain a lot from this too.
And one of the most important words we can use to improve relationships is “sorry”. We will make mistakes.
And that’s okay. We just need to be willing to say “sorry”. And mean it.
Apologizing to a spouse or child is often difficult, but the benefits to these relationships will make it totally worth it!
I love this quote from Andy Rooney: “Always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.”
Our relationships with others are precious. The relationships that mean the most to us are the ones most worthy of strengthening.
And even the worst relationship can be improved when we choose our words and make them soft and sweet like honeycomb.