Edward Heath – Prime Minister of England from 1970 to 1974 – failed in the 1974 elections and the public voted in Margaret Thatcher. Early in Heath’s career, London newspaper owner William Airken (better known as Lord Beaverbrook) wrote a “highly derogatory” editorial about Heath.
Several days afterward, Heath ran into Lord Beaverbrook in the washroom of a private club in London. Beaverbrook, having had time to think over his editorial, had decided that he made wrong assessments. He extended his hand to Heath saying, “My dear chap, I’ve been thinking it over, and I was wrong in that editorial.” He continued, “Here and now, I wish to apologize.”
Heath replied, “Very well, but next time, I wish you’d insult me in the washroom and apologize in your newspaper.” I read that story in Dr. Mardy Grothe’s book “Viva La Repartee.” From Dr. Grothe’s other titles, obviously he loves language: “Oxymoronica” and “Never Let a Fool Kiss You or Let a Kiss Fool You.”
Mark Twain said that “Repartee is something we think of twenty-four hours too late.” How many times have you later thought of a comeback and said, “I wish I’d thought to say that.”
God gave us a powerful tool when he gave us language and words. As you have experienced, they communicate many things when we speak them or write them. They can soothe or deceive. They can heal, encourage, instruct, destroy, inform, or persuade. And that’s only a minute list of their power.
The New Testament writer James communicated to his readers the influence of words when he talked about the tongue in chapter three. First, he mentions that we all stumble. He also says if you ever meet someone who has neared perfection then you have met someone who has learned to control their words and who also monitors their thoughts and actions.
James then uses a few similes to help his readers understand how spoken words can fuel or guide. A bit on a horse harness causes the rider to have control. Even sailing ships, driven by strong winds, are guided by a small rudder beneath the water. The tongue is small but it directs most of the happenings in the world.
James reminds his readers how a tiny spark can burn down a huge forested area. And we’ve seen the effects of wicked words in our personal lives and how evil words, boastful power, can topple good people and destroy thousands of innocents.
James described our restless tongues 2,000 years ago, and his words remain relevant, “All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue.” Anyone, who doubts that has never compared training a lion and taming his own tongue.
Adolph Hitler, German Chancellor and leader of the Nazi party said, “All epoch-making revolutionary events have been produced not by the written, but by the spoken word.” If evil men know how to use words to stir up a world of strife, think how much good children of God can do when we bless with words of light.
Today, pay attention to the thoughts that feed your words. Pay attention to the actual words that you give voice to, and watch for their effect on others. Also, listen carefully to the tones and inflections that you give to words.
Remember that when you speak, your hearers file your words away where they will be written into their lives. Few words are passive. Use yours to write blessings upon the lives of others.
I’m writing a new book about contentment and I’m seeking a few first person stories, of how you arrived at a place of contentment. If interested in possible inclusion in the book, please contact me for guidelines.)