Mean Your Words

 “Don’t eat with people who are stingy, don’t desire their delicacies. They are always thinking about how much it costs. ‘Eat and drink,’ they say, but they don’t mean it” (Proverbs 23:6-7 NLT).

They don’t mean it.

Meaning what we say is just as important as the words we end up using.

Take a common phrase, “I love you.” When spoken from the heart, such words bring life and connection. But when they’re spoken out of routine, the words grow hollow and create distance.

Love is echoed by words, but words do not always echo love.

We can say, “I love you,” and still come across a million miles away. We might say, “good job,” but miss touching the heart of the one our words are meant to encourage. We can say “good night” but only think of the relief that comes when the other sleeps.

We can say just about anything that sounds good on the surface, but if we don’t mean it, we are like clashing cymbals that make empty noise (1 Corinthians 13:1).

Meaning what we say also includes sharing the hard stuff of life. Sometimes instead of responding that we are “fine,” or not upset, when do feel something is wrong. When we do, we may plug a vent that needs to breathe.

Part of meaning what we say sometimes includes relating what is hard to bring up, but needs to be voiced nonetheless. I know. I just experienced how pain and fear left unsaid swelled, until it blew up and out—words vomiting on those I least wanted to hurt.

Leaving these words unsaid built volcanoes in my heart.

Stuffing down conflict can create fault lines that break suddenly. A safer approach to unwanted eruptions might be sitting down sooner, while we are still calm, and telling others in our lives how their words and actions impact us.

I wish I had done that.

Deep ruptures to the relationship can be caused both by our explosions, but also by repeated manipulation or lack of consideration and if something doesn’t change (on both sides), the relationship may not survive. Giving concrete examples of what happens and a positive example of how to change can set the stage for repair.

Staying silent, or saying words that communicate all is well when it is not can fertilize impending danger.

How do we get to the point of speaking sooner? Knowing ourselves. Communicating well might mean first facing our own stories, listening to what we need to share, understanding how others’ actions rewind us to painful parts of our history, hurting us again as if it was the first time. It’s also becoming aware of our deep desires, met and unmet.

None of us are perfect. We are all guilty of saying words we don’t mean – either in politeness or in anger. But meaning our words, whether they be good or hard to say, matter. When we don’t, our spirit dies. Then harsh words, the kind that kill the other’s spirit, are more likely to surface.


To read more about the weight of our words, visit

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