“The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips.
Gracious words are like are a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”
Gracious speech is both palatable and pragmatic, easy to swallow and good to follow. Pleasant speech has the power to persuade others and cause real change. Persuasion is a skill that can be developed through the practice of gracious speech: "The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness" (Prov. 16:21). Because of the source of our speech (originating in ourheart, Mt. 15:18), our choice of words has an eternal impact as Jesus made abundantly clear:
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Mt. 12:33-37)
James, combining the wisdom of Proverbs and the teaching of Jesus, also spoke about the power of the tongue (Jas. 3:1-12). He called the tongue a "restless evil," a "world of iniquity," the one thing human beings have never been able to tame. But instead of excusing bad language, James teaches us that what we cannot tame God can. By giving us wisdom and cleansing the source of our speech God can purify our language and teach us gracious speech.
The tone and tact of our speech is just as important as the words themselves. Paul wrote, "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person" (Col. 4:6). Timing could make all the difference. After all, the only difference between a fresh salad and a pile of slimy garbage is time. Therefore, “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Prov. 25:11) and "to make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!" (Prov. 15:23)
"Be quick to hear, slow to speak" (Jas. 1:19). We would do better by listening more and speaking less. Speak only when words are necessary and make your words count. With the help of our gracious Lord, we can choose to speak pleasant words, easy to swallow and good to follow.