Today I want to share with you a guest post from a friend of my daughter’s, Caroline Reynolds. Caroline teaches 2nd grade in Greenville. When she isn’t educating the youth of America or babysitting, she can probably be found going for a long run, at a Clemson athletic event, maybe reading a book, or hanging out with her friends. She loves to travel and enjoys photography.
This post about the power or words – or lack thereof- is excellent. You can read it in its entirety below or check it out on her church’s website here, as well.
“The tongue can bring death or life;” —Proverbs 18:21a
I find myself in somewhat of a unique place when it comes to the power of words and how I have seen their power of death take over not in what was said, but in what was not said. Words that are spoken have the ability to encourage and bring life or wound and bring death; but I would argue that every time we choose not to speak, it also holds those same capacities.
For me, it was the unspoken words, the silence, that were deafening and destroying me from the inside out. For most of my teenage and young adult years I kept my story to myself, living in secrets and carrying around so many “unsaid” words. With every day that passed by that I chose to bottle up every feeling, thought, and experience, I was building a fortress. I began living a life of bitterness, sadness, lies, shame, and guilt and had built a wall around my heart, which left me and everyone else in the dark.
“Words that are spoken have the ability to encourage and bring life or wound and bring death; but I would argue that every time we choose not to speak, it also holds those same capacities.”
I was choosing to keep God and everyone else at a distance. Words like vulnerability, truth, and openness were key words for lock-up and hide. I managed to put on a good front of being kind and good, but I was also known as being mysterious and I liked that. I had convinced myself that I did not want to be known. My relationships were surface at best, and I lived a hidden life out in the open. I did not know who I was and neither did anyone else, making it very difficult for anyone to love me.
When the Lord finally broke me His grace and mercy plucked me out of my agony, and the first thing He had me do was share my story. It was no coincidence that the very words I kept hidden for so long were the very words that began to bring me back to life. I used to run from vulnerability, truth, and openness, and now I run towards them, as those are key elements to words that bring life.
“The truth will set you free” had never felt as real as it did that day. My heart was open, the truth was told, sins were confessed, and my life was laid out before God and the special people He chose to witness probably the most tears I’ve ever cried at one time—and I felt naked. I knew that a new life had begun.
“It was no coincidence that the very words I kept hidden for so long were the very words that began to bring me back to life.”
I do not want to leave the first part of John 8:32 out because I came to know the importance of that part later, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The real freedom I later discovered comes from knowing the Truth. And Truth is a person. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. I have the freedom every day to choose my words wisely. Am I going to choose truth and life, or am I going to choose death?
Now that I have discovered this great power of spoken words, I have to remember that just because I have the freedom doesn’t mean I should use it. I wrestle with when it is appropriate and healthy to hold my tongue by exercising restraint that can bring life and when to speak up and not withhold truth. One way in which I try to decipher is through motivations: where is my heart in my reasoning? I am a work in progress and am still undoing unhealthy habits I had acquired, and I now see my old sins manifesting in different ways. I struggle with being a good communicator. I struggle with the times I feel unsafe or afraid, and I resort to the self protection of distancing myself from people and withholding truth or experiences. However, now I have community who can point me back to truth and who He is. They remind me when I forget the greatness of being known.
Do you have untold stories that weigh you down? Do you struggle with holding your tongue? What are your reasons or motivations for withholding?