Last spring when I was cleaning out our landscaping, I came across an ant hill beneath a Bird Nest pine. The pine looked amazing, but I was tired of the mess the ants made beneath it. I decided to take care of it.
As a caveat — I do not recommend this method for ant hills. It works, but it is destructive to the things you want to keep. Anyway, I poured gasoline on the colony, allowing it to soak into the ground. Then I lit it on fire.
It wasn’t a big fire, but it was hot. It singed one side of the Bird Nest pine, but I excused it. I assumed it would recover over the summer and be full and beautiful again.
I was wrong.
This spring, the poor little pine tree has nothing to offer. It’s branches remain barren and gray. No green shoots anywhere, evidence that more happened in the fire than met my eye.
I’ve thought about that little tree a lot this spring. I knew that my fire affected its growth last year, but I didn’t realize the extent of the damage. I believe now the fire also killed the root system under that little tree. It just couldn’t recover. We will replace it soon, but I learned a lesson from this experience.
Words are powerful. They can kill and they can give life. Just like the fire I started to eliminate the ants where only one side of the tree was visibly affected, cruel words may visibly affect a person. It might be tears or shouts of anger, a turning away, a face reddened with shame — the visible reaction to hasty, harsh words.
It’s impossible to see what happened in the heart of the person. Perhaps a dream was burned out of her soul or motivation to press in was stomped out. Only later – maybe years later – will the extent of the damage be known. Then it might be too late to apologize. Like the fire I started that couldn’t be stopped, words cannot be retracted.
I invite you to become aware of what you are saying, how you are saying it and to whom you are speaking. Will these words cause death or bring life? Will they foster a dream or crush it? Remember, words cannot be taken back but they can be held for another time. Give thought to what you say today!
18Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.Proverbs 12:18
4Gentle words are a tree of life; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.Proverbs 15:4
One last thought — that quick response, “That’s just how I am! I don’t mean any harm by it!” That doesn’t work. We are all responsible for what we say. Let’s use our words for good to build one another up!