The gospel of Matthew records a warning that we will be called to account for every idle word we have spoken. I have learned over the last six months how powerful an idle word can be. It all began with a car accident back in December… The incident has left a lasting mark on our family, but it was not the only consequence.
What really was a minor collision took on epic proportions in the ears of some, born of the casual comment of a tow-truck driver who, upon surveying the scene upon his arrival, deemed my car to be a write-off. As I was on the way to a meeting, a call was placed to let them know that I would not make it. In response to how bad it was, the report was that “the car was written off”, but that I was OK. In the days ahead I received two very concerned calls and was greeted with some rather surprised looks from a colleague when I appeared at a function two days later. I think there was an expectation somewhat closer to Intensive Care, all created by one phrase: “the car was a write-off”.
When I drove the car down to the panel beaters the next day (yes, it was still driveable!), I fully expected that it would be the last time I would drive it, but the end result was not as bad as first thought - the car would be repaired, much to the disappointment of our then five-year-old son, who was hoping for a “Black-W” car as a replacement (he meant a BMW, and I wish!). When I picked up the car on Christmas Eve, the whole front end had been resprayed, replacing the worn-out duco which previously decorated it. It looked much more impressive!
When I walked in the door, I commented to Ev that the car “looks like Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” with its shiny new nose. The analogy was lost on our three children, but the nomenclature stuck with our youngest. Now when we are heading out in the car, he asks “Are we taking Rudolph?” My idle comment has been immortalized in family folklore.
So… when I read that we will give account of our idle words, I realise the power in such seemingly innocent expressions. Though we may not give them much credence, others may come to give them an authority never intended. That words have immense power is beyond dispute. When we take little care with them, the damage they might do is beyond imagining.
And the power of a constructive or encouraging word is equally so…
May 25, 2003