At a school in Dubai an experiment was conducted to see if words had an effect on plants. A recording was made of students insulting plants and another was made of compliments. The recording of put downs like, “You look ugly” and “Are you even alive?” was played to some plants on a loop for 30 days. Another recording of positive comments such as, “I like the way you look” was played to other plants for 30 days. The plants that were continually insulted withered, while the ones that heard positive comments remained healthy.
It may seem strange to think plants respond to what they hear and the science may be questioned, but it would fit with how the Creator has ordered His world. It is not surprising if plants wither if all they hear are insults and negativity. That is what happens with people.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. … The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit” (Proverbs 15:1, 4). We can’t be exactly sure how it affects plants whether the words spoken to them are gentle or harsh, but we do know how it affects people. Harsh words, spoken in anger, lead to more anger. Mean, nasty put-downs cause much discouragement. Constant criticism with no encouragement crushes a person’s spirit and makes them want to give up.
Gentle words bring peace and ease tension. A soothing tongue and loving encouragement can inspire a person to keep going and not give up.
Words can knock a person down or lift a person up. They can cause deep hurt or bring gracious healing to wounded souls. “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. … Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up” (Proverbs 12:18, 25).
In our hi-tech world with email, Facebook, texting and Twitter, words are constantly being spread around the world. Many of them are negative and critical, focused on failure, expressing anger and knocking people down. Those kinds of words cause relationships and spirits to wither.
Words of blessing and encouragement, words that describe the beauty and grace of God, words that give thanks for good things God is doing are words that build up and give life. “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” (Ephesians 4:29). Some words that are shared are truthful but not beneficial. The person sharing them may feel good about “getting it off their chest,” but they aren’t words that help the listener or build them up.
We give thanks for God’s loving, gracious Word that builds us up. In this world full of words that wither souls, we give thanks we can turn to Christ and find the gentle words we need to hear and the encouraging words that give life.