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Soft words make soft people

I'm hearing this saying doing the rounds in sermons etc:

"Soft words make hard people, hard words make soft people."

The implication being - therefore speak hard words.

Well.  Maybe.  And maybe Proverbs 15:1

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."

Let's not forget how this dynamic usually plays out:  Hard words produce hard speakers.  And hard speakers produce hard people.

I mean, if the saying just meant 'call a spade a spade' and 'straight talking reaches the heart' then that'd be grand.  I'm just not so keen on justifying 'hard words' per se.  To use them for their softening ability seems like the myth of violence applied to speech.

Allow this to be a gentle word on the matter.  I wonder what kind of commenters it will produce...

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0 thoughts on “Soft words make soft people

  1. glenscriv

    I'd certainly prefer that as a saying Dave. It highlights the motives of your own heart rather than to justify your speech according to the effects you might have on others. Your saying should come first definitely

  2. dave bish

    The safeguards we need to have against pride and arrogance are humiliating to us, as they should be. So easy for us as preachers to attack the sheep than to stand with them while the good shepherd speaks to us all.

    Similarly it strikes me that much as I need to help people learn how to be discerning about Bible teaching, more so we need to learn to listen with humility to preaching. So much easier (it seems) for me to critique and rebuke than for me to receive the same.

  3. bobby grow

    Isn't that "saying" code for "untrue words make untrue people?" At least this seems to be the assumption.

    Jesus certainly spoke "hard words" (Jn 6), but as Dave is underscoring, they came from a compassionate, soft heart. It is definitely the message that should "divide" and not the messenger.

  4. bobby grow

    . . . unless of course the messenger is the message (so there isn't an exacting parallel between how Jesus did things and the way we are able to --- but there certainly is an "standard" provided by Jesus, and the "way" we communicate should be Jesus living His "Wordness" through us --- of course this can never be the case [fully anyway]).

  5. Dave K

    I think a difference can also be drawn between hard/soft words by preachers and hard/soft words in private conversation. I think we should and could be much harder on each other one-to-one. I have certainly be softened in the past by people being like this to me, but most of us (me especially) avoid hard words in one-to-one situations.

    On the other hand hard words from the pulpit are probably a little easier to do. But their effect can be less than what is desired.

  6. Robert Jordan

    Knowing who said those words and putting them into their correct context I think clarifies the heart behind them. Myself being a Pastor I understand the temptation to only speak "soft" words while preaching; its easier, people leave happier, etc, but the truth is soft words don't always produce change in people. Scripture is supposed to teach, train, and REBUKE (2 timothy 3:16). So as one who teaches scripture I'm supposed to rebuke where necessary.

    The preacher who said that was getting at the point that the section of scripture they were teaching that day has some hard things that christians dont always like to hear, but we need to, so we can examine our lives and make sure they line up with God's word.

  7. Glen

    Hi Robert, welcome to the blog. I've heard this phrase from many - not just one speaker. I'm just wanting to raise a question mark over whether such a phrase should become a timeless epithet - and asking what effects our words have on our own hearts (i.e. the speaker's heart, not just the hearer's).

    But you've raised a gentle corrective word to my (hopefully) gentle corrective word. That's the spirit...

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