I still remember where we were standing. My bare feet were sticking slightly to her linoleum floor as we talked in the doorway of her family’s kitchen. There’s only one part of that conversation that I still hear clearly in my memory now. She told me that someone described me as “boring Tasha.”
That day, I shrugged the comment off because I didn’t know how else to respond. It was a little comment. My good friend didn’t have mean intentions in telling me what was said, but those words stuck. The description of “boring” knocked on the door of my heart, and I let it move in and unpack its bags.
The words that we let fall from our mouths have power. James describes the tongue like the rudder of a ship or a wild animal that must be tamed in James 3:3-6:
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
Those simple words shared by my friend directed the way I viewed myself from behind the scenes of my life for years after that seemingly insignificant moment.
That was over twenty years ago.
It’s taken Jesus’ relentless pursuit of my heart — days that turned into years of reading my Bible and living in community with others who spoke truth and grace to me — to believe what’s actually true about me. What’s actually true couldn’t be further from the word “boring.” You and I are masterpieces, created by the God who made the galaxies and the beautiful cluster of stormy, sea-blue irises that bloom outside my window every spring.
What if the words you casually said today stuck with someone for the next twenty years or more, wrapping around them like a set of caged bars and hindering how they move forward in the world from this day on? Or what if the words you intentionally spoke today stuck with someone and set them free to move into the places God purposed for them to be with courage, confidence, and conviction?
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:15-16 (ESV)
Some of us need to put into practice taking words and thoughts captive before we speak them or keep them.
Some of us need to learn to speak up and say the words God meant for us to speak: words of truth that affirm the Imago Dei in every one of us. Not speaking up when we should is just as dangerous as speaking when we shouldn’t. Proverbs 16:24 says, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”
Our world continues to bear the weight and impact of a global pandemic along with all the pain and injustice of systemic racism. We are all facing loss, uncertainty, and division. In light of that, let’s be people who remember that our words wield great power. God meant for each of us to speak words of truth, sandwiched between grace and love. In a time of great need, our words have the power to soothe thirsty souls and heal the fractured bones of our land.
Some of us need to learn to speak up and say the words God meant for us to speak: words of truth that affirm the Imago Dei in every one of us. -@tashajunb: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Ruth Mills says
Great encouragement to be intentional. To be offering gracious words, listening deeply & not just trying to make my tower of words just as high as yours. Truth sandwiched between love & grace indeed! Blessings!
Ruth, thank you. Yes, intentionality is so important, and it’s easier to be intentional when we remember how powerful our words can be!
Beth Williams says
It is so easy for me to let words fly at times. I am guilty of saying wrong words or using wrong tones. Most of the time though I encourage people. Letting them know how special they are. That the job you are doing matters-even if simply cleaning up a room or emptying trash. Almost always try to say thank you or good job. Makes people feel good. We so need that in today’s society. With all this disunity going on. Most are to quick to say flippant words not even taking the time to get to know that person. Their thoughts are you look Chinese so you caused Covid. You are black so they think “nigger” or some other words. They won’t take any time to really understand who you are. We must be careful with our words & learn to love each other as God loves us.
Becky Keife says
I see you using your words and gifts of encouragement so often here at (in)courage. You’re so right, the small things we say and do can absolutely make a big impact, and should always reflect the love of Christ. I also wanted to bring to your attention that using the N-word, even when framing it as a negative thing, is still disrespectful and hurtful to our sisters and brothers of color. I know you didn’t have any ill intent in your comment. I’m so glad this is a safe place we can learn and grow together.
(in)courage community manager
Valerie Yee says
Thank you, Becky for sharing this truth with Beth and our readers. I have never been compelled to write on thie subject of race until now. As a sister of Chinese descent, seeing in print a widely held notion of hate, toward me simply because of another’s ignorance is…frightening. As Tasha expressed today, just because you repeat someone else’s hateful and horrible accusations doesn’t mean the words inflict any less pain when received, even if you as the messenger, believe them to be untrue. It doesn’t matter if it is false, because it is actually believed by someone. It doesn’t matter that I am a 3rd generation American, have never been to China, and horrified by its dictatorship; my face is a target. So far, I’ve never had to personally face the fear of physical harm because I look Chinese. Taunting yes, at times in my life, but not yet fear of physical harm. That can change instantly due to ignorance, scapegoating, and its spread. However, I am aware that others with an Asian face, even in my own city, have been attacked or threatened because of the virus. Dear Becky, it is no different than if you had a friend telling you that others find you possess a sinful trait or ugly flaw ( i.e. insensitive, unattractive, immature, cheater, unfaithful, co-dependent, mentally unstable, abusive mom/wife/daughter, etc.) . It may not be true, but it may affect the actions toward you of those who hear it and may already believe it. Therefore, please don’t. Whether it’s a demeaning ethnic slur or blaming an entire race for the current ills of the world, such words in the presence of those who are accused is harmful. And stating these untruths continues to perpetuate their presence in our society. These issues can be discussed without repeating the actual false accusations and labels.
I know you didn’t know, and I forgive you. I am reminded that I’ve also said and done things in my life because I didn’t know. I’m glad that we have a loving Father to bind us together to spur one another on. God bless you.
Valerie Yee says
So sorry Becky, meant to direct my closing statements to Beth, not to you.
Valerie, I value your input here, and agree. I can also very much relate to the things you are sharing, as a fellow an Asian American woman. We are so glad you are here with us in our (in)courage community. Thank you for being vulnerable, truthful and forgiving.
Beth, thank you for your honesty and faithfulness to encourage others here and in your community. It can be easy for me to let words fly at times as well, and I’m always reminded of their power in the aftermath.
Both of the negative examples you shared are heartbreaking and harmful, and I echo what Becky brought to attention above: even uttering or repeating specific words is hurtful when they carry such a long history of racism and oppression. I’m sad that you have likely heard those assumptions about Asians and the derogatory words towards Black brothers and sisters in your own community. Perhaps God has you in specific places where, speaking the truth in love, you can use your words to speak against words like these if you hear them in the future.
Grateful to learn together.
Hi Beth, thank you for sharing your thoughts albeit, as one who sees your comments quite often, I must admit I was quite taken back by your usage of a racial slur. As a woman of African American descent, I was shocked and a bit offended (panged) in reading it in a place we deem safe and whereas we are sisters, sharing the same blood. Although I don’t believe it was spoken maliciously, I have to be honest when I say my thoughts didn’t quite know how to process it. And please don’t count me as being ‘so sensitive.’ Without passing judgement especially as the subject matter is about healing or destroying with words, I’m trusting at this point it’s a word you’ve apparently been ok with using (wanted to use) and whereas you’ve been asking God through prayer to reveal anything that is within you that is not like him. As this has come to surface and your willingness to share on this platform, I believe it’s something the Lord have allowed that you may know where you stand. I do respectfully invite you to have that conversation with your friends, your sisters (from another mother) of African American descent who are in Christ so that you may come to know the history of such a rich culture of a smooth and beautiful people who through their blood, sweat and tears, have paved the way for many…that you may understand why it’s such an offense to us. Please know that we are forgiving and will continue to lift you in prayer, sister.
Tammy, thank you for leading with your words here. I appreciate your wisdom, truth, vulnerability, and grace. Thank you for being an example of speaking the truth in love. We are so grateful you are part of our online community.
Please note that it is not just our words that have energy and affect others, but also our thoughts and actions. All of these have energies that we feel and that affect us, so if we all work towards thinking good or positive thoughts, these will also help us with our actions. When seeing, actually seeing another person, who may look different than ourselves, it would be in our best interest to truly see them as a human being. Try not to judge them. This takes practice and so we need to forgive ourselves if we do judge, but know that over time, we will be able to just see others as human beings. Then if you are able to spend more time with them, you can get to know them and their gifts that The Creator has given them. Creator made us all and it is our diversity that is important, not to be the cookie cutter sameness as some people would like. It takes more energy to be around people of different cultures, who speak different languages and whose grasp of the English may not be the best. Take the time to be with them, to listen to them. We can learn so much by doing this. We can learn more about ourselves as we do this. During these months of staying indoors and hopefully going within ourselves, I pray we have all learned from these experiences. An Elder told me that in life, we go through many experiences and that in each experience, we are offered potential lessons. It is up to us to choose to learn from these, if we so choose, that is free will. Creator gifted us with free will and the ability to dream. I pray we will choose well in the future and in so doing, will help heal our country, our world, our beautiful Mother Earth. This planet is alive and we do need to respect her. She is our Mother because she births life. Much to think about. I pray you will at least think about what I offer to you. Peace, love and balance to all…..
Sandra L Corbin says
Once again God has spoken the words I needed to hear at the time I needed to hear them and He used as the vehicle. Our 25 year old pregnant grand daughter has moved in with us and the way has been rocky. We have vastly different outlooks on life and our communications styles are miles apart. It has often resulted in a collision and angry word. Today you reminded me of the power of my words and the intent I have when I speak them. Thank you.
Sandra, I’m glad the post resonated with you and served as a good reminder. I have to remind myself of the power of my words often: sometimes that means not speaking, and other times it means speaking words that give love and courage to someone else. I just said a quick prayer for your family, asking for healing words to flow, connect and mend.
I loved this write up. I am a mom of teens who is very intentional about describing their self worth to them and encouraging them to look for ways to bless others with their words and actions. I think our words build a life time either of pain or love.
I have been a mom for 26 years and heard so many other moms speaking harsh words over their children.. it definetly shapes that child and stays with them.
I had a mom who still spews out anger in her words at anyone. and she has caused a life time of pain for herself.
gossip.. slander.. anger ..God made sense telling us to get rid of these as they certainly come out in our everyday sentences even describing small things.
thankyou for reminding us our words matter !!
Thanks, Krissy! I’m sure I could learn a lot from you about parenting and words. I’m guilty of using harsh words sometimes, and I wish I wasn’t. I have to remind myself of these truths often and I think I will be for the rest of my life!
it’s all about grace…grace for moms who need it and definetly grace for the children who might mess up ( but are loved !).
Wow! I so relate to this message. Many hurtful/cruel words were spoken about my looks and weight, as I was growing up, even into adulthood. They have stayed with me and affected my entire life. I’m gradually learning to speak God’s unconditional love to my heart. A work in progress.
Thanks for sharing!
Peace and Blessings
Tonya, I’m so sorry you had many hurtful and cruel words spoken over you. That’s not okay. I’m grateful for the way we can learn to let God’s unconditional love cover us and our wounds. Again and again.
Linda R Johnson says
First, I want to ‘thank you’ for sharing your heart and taking the time to relive this painful experience for the sake of helping others. It’s not easy to ‘go there again’ and relive what used to be. My greatest praise is that you allowed GOD to transform your experience into something beautiful for others to grow from.
As a mom and grandmother — as a first generation Asian in the USA — as a woman who chose the life of a biracial marriage — I can relate to many of the experiences shared here in response to your writing.
There was a time in my life that I had to truly learn to LEAN IN and ON the ever powerful Word of GOD to get me through words that were running through my mind during very difficult moments. And as you said, words are powerful, so we must allow the Holy Spirit to take hold of our mouths as we lovingly speak. Not always easy to do at all times — we are all work in progress.
But the more we use this magnificent design of our mouths to glorify GOD, the greater good His Purpose is shown to a thirsty world.
Keep writing, sharing and speaking, Tasha ~~ Linda J
Thank you so much, Linda! Your words here are such an encouragement to me. Thank you for sharing a bit of your story as well. Very grateful.
Dorina Lazo Gilmore says
Grateful for the timeliness of this blog and your brave words, my friend. THIS: “Some of us need to learn to speak up and say the words God meant for us to speak: words of truth that affirm the Imago Dei in every one of us. Not speaking up when we should is just as dangerous as speaking when we shouldn’t.”
Thank you, friend.
Dawn Camp says
I see beautiful, kind Tasha. Thank you for this reminder of the power of our words and how long—and deeply—their effects can be felt.
Thank you, dear Dawn. What an encouragement you are.
Tasha, thank you for reminding us to watch what we say. We may not know the one who hears us and how our words hurt them. I guess I am like a wild animal not a rudder. I get excited and talk without thinking first. I need to:
Always ask about others.
Pick what I say carefully.
And I won’t slap others.
Laurel in Colorado
Yes, I really think it’s hard for us to remember how powerful our words are. But it looks like you have a system for remembering. Thank you.
Theresa Boedeker says
Our words can free people from their prisons of lock them deeper into them. What a responsibility our words carry. It reminds me of the verse where it says we will give an account of all our words. I think of that verse sometimes and think of all the nonsense I say. And times I have wanted to retrieve my words. This will be something I am working on till my last breath. When I fail, I know an apology can go a long ways in tipping the scales towards healing.