The words that come out of your mouth can build up or destroy. They can encourage people to greatness or push them into mediocrity.
The wholesome tongue can lift a person up, soothe the spirit, turn away wrath and anger, and bring healing. But the blabbering tongue can also be a curse and pour forth the same deadly poison as the venom of snakes.
As physical beings we are born with a certain level of life and death that is determined by our genes. However, we have the ability to choose between life and death through our words. When we speak, our words can impact our lives physically, emotionally and spiritually.
For example, we can bring life through encouragement or a kind and proper warning (like a storm warning) that saves lives. We can also cause death through gossip, deceit and venting our anger with others.
When Solomon states that “a soothing tongue is a tree of life” or “a perverse tongue crushes the spirit” it is using a figure of speech called metonymy. A tongue as a fleshy part of the body cannot crush the spirit; however, the words spoken by the tongue can. Think of all the times you have received encouragement or strength through someone else’s words or even had your spirits crushed by their words to you.
As the body ages, we become less and less resilient to emotional trauma. Words that are spoken can have a profound impact on us, and can affect our emotions as well as our physical state.
We have all heard the idiom, “between life and death.” This phrase describes an event or situation where we feel that our chances of survival are extremely high. For example, if someone is very sick and their health is at risk they might say that they are feeling as though they are between life and death.
Solomon took this idea to a new level when he wrote that life and death are in the power of the tongue. The tongue can bring life by words of encouragement, but can also kill with words of discouragement or even by venting anger. Words of encouragement build up and strengthen, while hurtful words crush the spirit (Proverbs 15:4). This is why we must submit our tongue to God so that He can control it.
The Bible teaches that there is a spiritual element to life. When sin entered the world and humanity was separated from God, death began. Physical death is a separation of the life force from the body and it cannot be reversed (Romans 6:23). The Bible also speaks of a spiritual death that comes when a person rejects Jesus Christ as Savior (2 Corinthians 5:22). This is a conscious eternal separation from God (Revelation 20:14) that results in wrath and torment for eternity in hell.
The power of the tongue takes on a whole new dimension when it is considered in light of this spiritual element. Soothing words bring healing, but the careless word can crush the spirit like a sword. James 3:6 warns, “A destructive tongue is fueled by hell.” We should always seek wisdom to make wise choices with our words and pray that the Holy Spirit will use us to speak into someone’s life.
The tongue can be used to bless and encourage or to hurt and destroy. A teenaged girl found out the hard way what kind of power her words can have when she began a relationship with a cyberspace lover, who in a chat room wrote that the world would be a better place without her. She committed suicide.
In some societies today, people suffering from chronic diseases may experience social death before they die physically. Social death is a term that describes the lack of a sense of identity and role in society, which can cause people to feel they are dead even though they still exist physically(Borgstrom, 2015; Kralova & Walter, 2018).
To investigate this phenomenon, researchers have employed the concept analysis method of research, which uses various descriptive terms to enlarge the understanding of an idea. They have studied the effects of social death on patients, specialists, their families and the general population.