“Pleasant words are a honeycomb: sweet to the taste and health to the body” (Proverbs 16:24).

Words can hurt, and words can also heal. It is so uncomfortable to be around someone spewing out harsh words to another. I cringe when I’m in a public place and hear hateful things being said. Have you ever felt like stepping up and giving some unsolicited advice? Once, before I even realized what I was doing, I actually did speak up to a stranger belittling her spouse publicly. Fortunately, she didn’t turn on me.

There’s an old saying—and your mother probably told you many times—that says, “If you can’t say anything nice about someone, then don’t say anything at all.” It’s good advice, but is there a reason we can’t always say something positive? Not really. The story is told of the sweet little lady who always had a positive comment to make regardless of the person being discussed. Deciding they could trick her into saying something negative, someone asked, “What do you think about the devil?” She immediately replied, “Well, he certainly is a busy fellow.”

The world would be a much nicer place for all of us if we chose to speak uplifting words instead of things that hurt and tear down. Proverbs 18:21 tells us, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” I don’t want to kill someone with the things I say to them. I may not cause a physical death, but I can kill their spirit, their self-confidence, their ambition, their hope. Careless words destroy. I want to speak words that bring health and wholeness to another.

Think about some things you hear in conversations around you. How many are positive? How many are negative or even destructive? As a little exercise, jot down comments you hear (or perhaps even say) during any given day. You may hear things like this:


  • Why can’t you ever do anything right?
  • You are never going to amount to anything.
  • I can’t believe how (stupid, clumsy, ugly, lazy, uncaring) you are.
  • Why can’t you be more like (fill in the name)?
  • You are the most (aggravating, obnoxious, thoughtless, annoying) person I know!

Or would you rather hear statements like these?

  • You have such a great attitude.
  • You always take time to listen.
  • You are so (competent, helpful, loving, dependable, bright).
  • Things seem to go better when you’re around.
  • Your smile brightens my day.
  • I see Jesus in you.


It’s the first month of a new year. This is a good time for us to work on developing a new vocabulary—one filled with positive, affirming words that will build up and bring health to those around us.


“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, just as you are in fact doing” (I Thessalonians 5:11, New English Translation).


Prayer: Lord, make me conscious of the words I speak into the life of others. Help me to be kind, uplifting, and encouraging. May I never be guilty of speaking destructive or cruel words either to them or about them. Help me to guard my tongue and speak to others as I would like to be spoken to. In Jesus’ name I pray.


Mary enjoys traveling, meeting new people, and spending time with old friends. Although directionally challenged, she would rather take the back roads with their discoveries than the boredom of the interstate.

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