When we arrived in Australia 16 years ago, we found an excellent family doctor. Not only was he a good doctor; he was also friendly and caring. He was open to trying natural remedies and respectful towards us patients. A few years ago, I needed to see a female doctor and looked around for one. I chose one who seemed pleasant enough. I had been struggling with debilitating pain and exhaustion for many years and was determined to get to the bottom of it. I asked her if I could see a specialist – an Endocrinologist, since at the time I believed my symptoms arose from my thyroid problems.
She sent me to one with a referral. I confess I was nosy. I peeked into her letter. I was shocked at what I read. Her words said “I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with this patient, but check her out anyway.” What? Did she think I was a hypochondriac? The pain and exhaustion I’d endured (for 6 years then) was very hard for me to cope with. Did she think it was all in my mind? I couldn’t believe it!
The specialist she sent me to was very rude – unusually so. Her bias against me may have been established by the words of the doctor’s referral letter. She treated me with little respect; as if I was a naughty child in need of being reprimanded. I felt betrayed by the lady doctor who’d sent me there and yes, you guessed right. I never went back to her. More recently, when I needed to see a female doctor again – I tried yet another lady doctor in the practice.
She was friendly and caring and listened to me respectfully. Again, I needed a specialist referral letter. I confess I did peek at her letter too. It began: “Please see this lovely lady….” It made me smile. I haven’t been to the specialist as yet – but I can guess how I will be treated because the words in the letter were positive and affirming.
Words are powerful aren’t they? When my son was little – I’d often use words that tore down and didn’t build up. I hang my head in shame as I recall those moments. When he misbehaved, I’d resort to infantile behavior myself and say things I deeply regretted later. I’d suffer at night seeing my angelic little tyke fast asleep. I knew I couldn’t undo what I’d said to him. The somber truth is that words expressed cannot be taken back. And the thing is, that like veritable little sponges, children absorb all that’s said to them. Words and the effects of those words often last all their lives.
We in Australia know how horrific bushfires are and what damage they do to life and property. The Bible reminds us that our tongues can do enormous harm – like a little spark that sets a whole forest ablaze. Yes, it is sadly true that the little tongue we all use every day – can do similar or worse injuries to others unless we control it.
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” James 3:9-12
Isn’t that worth thinking about? We can often make or break someone’s day by the words we use. And as this passage states – healthy healing words and negative angry ones could not be coming out of the same source. So here's the challenge you and I face today. To use our words wisely.
With love. With grace.
To heal. Restore. And to bless.
“The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life.”