Yesterday while filling up my gas tank I noticed an attractive man at the gas pump on the other side of mine. A couple of minutes later, his friend emerged from the convenience store and walked over to the man. I heard the man say something to his friend that I found to be a big turn-off. Nothing obscene, just a word that I find to be highly tacky to use. At that point, this man was no longer attractive to me.

Later I thought about how the words I say can either be attractive or a turn-off to other people. I have been blessed (or cursed, depending on your perspective) with a quick wit, and enjoy using it to make others laugh. But sometimes that wit comes at the expense of someone else. I can inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings if I’m not careful.

Not only do I need to watch what I say, but I also need to be wise about the conversations I listen to. Even if I’m not actively participating, if I hang around with people who use foul language, or tell lewd jokes, or gossip, I’m still affected by it–and others who see me in those conversations are affected as well.

I’m reminded of the warnings that Paul gave to the church at Ephesus regarding speech:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Eph. 4:29)

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. (Eph. 5:3-4, emphasis mine)

Our words can draw people to Christ, or they can turn them off. I often forget how powerful an influence my words can be, for good or for bad. I want the world to know that I’m a disciple of Christ, by my words as well as by my actions.

Of course, I cannot have a pure tongue on my own. It is only through the Holy Spirit at work in me that any part of me can be pure and holy. Some days I remember to pray that I’ll watch what I say, and other days I forget. Hopefully this is something that will become a permanent daily prayer request. I definitely need to be reminded that words carry weight far greater than I think.