I pressed the 'SEND' button... and was instantly panic stricken! No! I'd sent the text message to the wrong person. A particular person who might even have been mentioned in the message. Immediately, I began to furiously press every button, trying to stop the text from going through. I turned it off and on. I prayed for an O2 network fault that would prevent it being delivered. But, of course, it was received by the recipient.
All I could do was send a second message, explaining that the original text was obviously intended for someone else, and apologise. However, the damage was done. Words, whether written or spoken, are like that. We've all said words which we've instantly regretted. Words which have caused needless heartache and hurt. Words aren't neutral. They have power.
Consider the confusion and chaos surrounding the Brexit votes in Parliament this week. At the root of it all? Words - and how they might be interpreted and legally applied. Words are loaded with subtleties and significance.
Words have the power to: heal or wound; build up or tear down; speak truth or deceive; praise or criticise; bring life or death. That last line might sound like an exaggeration. However, the Old Testament writer of Proverbs said: "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit." (Proverbs 18: 21).
The tongue is a lethal weapon. Words, used in the wrong way, can cause tremendous damage.
However, the opposite is also true. Words can bring healing, hope, reassurance and refreshment to the hearer. Proverbs 16:24 tells us: "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones."
Why not try to be a little more intentional this week about making your words positive, your conversation uplifting, your comments encouraging?
Here are three things that I've found helpful. Before you speak:
PAUSE: Just because you think something, it doesn't mean you have to immediately express it. Take a second or two.
PONDER: Ask yourself: "Will these words be helpful? How might they affect the other person? Would I like it if someone said this to me?"
PRAY: Ask God to help you say the right thing in each situation to encourage and build up the other person.
Mark Twain once said: "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt." Now, these are words we might want to heed.