"The tongue has the power of life and death '" (v.21)
Don't think that your words will be overlooked and easily erased. I can remember the words of a teacher who made me stand up in a crowded classroom and said something that pierced my heart, leaving a deep scar. The hurt has gone now and forgiveness had dealt with the residual effects, but the memory burned within me for years. Any counselor will tell you how unkind and cruel words spoken to a child in its early years have shaped and molded his life for good or for bad. A minister tells of talking to a forty-two-year-old man who was frantically working himself into exhaustion - "a volatile human being whose temper exploded at the slightest hint of disagreement or criticism." He found that during childhood this man's father repeatedly told him: "You are not going to amount to anything." Every time his father lost his temper, he would repeat this statement to the boy. Thirty years later the man still bore the pain of his father's verbal malpractice and was driven to prove his father wrong. This is what psychologists are talking about when they refer to people who are driven. They are driven by the lash of cruel words to them years earlier. Take, on the other hand, this example of another man. He told me that his father used to hug him every day and say: "You are so special to me. There is no one in the world who could take your place." That man grew up with aliveness and optimism in his personality. Proverbs is right: death words destroy, life words build up and give increasing strength.