Author’s note: This column in its original form ran almost a year ago, the message in it says exactly what has been on my heart this week as a writer, so I touched it up with a couple new details.
Fall weather is here this week, which for me heralds the return of pumpkin spice.
On a cool day, there’s not much that warms me more inside than the sweet warmth of my morning coffee with a generous helping of pumpkin spice creamer.
Now imagine my surprise if my equally sweet kindergartner, in a quest to be kind and helpful, were to pour a helping of vinegar and garlic salt in that coffee, thinking it was creamer and sugar, and I took a drink?
It’d be a pretty bitter and sour cup of coffee.
Now imagine that cup of coffee as someone else’s heart and mind, and your words as the vinegar and garlic.
Scripture tells us even idle words have incredible power. Kind words can be as sweet and uplifting as a spoonful of honey (Proverbs 16:24), while bitter words can kill a spirit as surely as a deadly poison (James 3:8).
Want a recipe for a miserable home life? Constantly complain about the dirty dishes or misspent finances, the scattered toys or the “D” in math, instead of saying “I love you” and “I am proud of you.”
Want to poison the coffee at work? Then spend your time gossiping about your coworkers and complaining about your job instead of saying, “Thank you or all you do – I appreciate it.”
Want to leave your friendships with a bitter taste? Then spend your conversations whining about how miserable and how horrible your problems are instead of saying, “Thank you for being there and being a friend.”
Misspent words at home, work or school, not only be a bitter taste; they can, in fact be a recipe for tragedy for those whose hearts are torn to with abusive speech. Plain and simple, the words you matter, and have very real consequences, and can cause real pain and real scars.
And unlike I bitter cup of coffee, you can’t just pour the bitter words out of a wounded heart. They fill over time, and eventually they spill over.
Yes, I can be careless with my words, too. In fact, it’s incredibly easy to let my words become extremely sour. But it does not start at the lips. It begins much deeper inside.
Jesus says this: “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45, ESV)
Where is your heart?
Is it grateful or greedy? Is it joyful or angry? Does it easily forgive or always hold tightly to grudges? Does it focus on problems or solutions? Does it see the best in people or the worst?
And at the center of all of this, is your heart focused on love?
Paul writes in Ephesians 4:29-32 that our words should be kind, tenderhearted and full of grace, reserved for building up the people around us. They should be free of bitterness, wrath, anger and slander – whether we speak them to others or type them on our social media feed.
Sure, we are all going to have bad days. Our tongues are sometimes going to get away from us. Our words won’t be perfect.
But as your feet hit the floor each morning you have a choice.
You can be the honey that brings life, or you can be the vinegar and garlic in the coffee.
Which will you be?
Daniel Kiewel is a reporter with the Great Bend Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.