Words, The Dual-Purpose Tool

~ By Darlene Franklin ~

You know you’re a writer when you edit your speech. If only I could. Oh, I can restate what I meant to say, but the way I said it the first time will stick in people’s minds.

Words are like a surgeon’s scalpel. In the right hands, a scalpel removes dead skin, making precise cuts to remove a diseased organ while leaving the healthy alone.

A knife can also be an instrument of injury and death. With it, we mutilate ourselves—or others. We use it to bring down an animal, to protect ourselves from danger. Or—in the wrong hands—it can bring death.

The Bible compares words to a sword. “Sharper than any double-edged sword, [the word of God] penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV.)

God knows how to wield the word sword, and He calls me to do the same. Recently, I ran across this verse: “He made my mouth like a sharpened sword.” (Isaiah 49:2, NIV).

Last week a writer who belongs to my local group came to visit me. She was all atwitter about meeting me, whom she claimed as “one of her favorite authors.”

She went on to mention “the blessing you were to me in a dark time.” She meant the blessing of my books. How that scene, those books, had kept her going forward during a dark time.

On paper, I can juggle my words. I can massage them until they say exactly what I want to say.

In person, I don’t have that advantage. I fling words about undiluted, without a protective spell-check. I feel doubly responsible, since words are supposed to be my area of expertise.

In the nursing home, I have a lot of opportunities to practice healing speech, like the times I wait for thirty minutes to get help going to bed.

Do I say “no problem,” when an aide comes in, switches off the call light, and tells me, “Please be patient for a few more minutes”—and then leaves?

When the half-hour stretches to an hour, and an aide says, “I’ll put you to bed last, so we won’t feel rushed?”, do I say, “That sounds like a good idea?”

You must have guessed my answer. No, I don’t. My answer is more likely to be along the lines of I-don’t-care and I’m-too-tired-to-think-straight, let alone be reasonable and kind. And it gets worse from there. My lack of control shames me.

If all my efforts to avoid the trying situation have failed, and if I want to avoid cutting words, I have found two helpful tools.

One is to say as little as possible. Silence may pound but it won’t slice.

Another is to sing hymns to myself while I’m waiting.

I have the gift of words. How I long to use them wisely.

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