These two words by themselves are small and inconsequential. But when they are coupled together they become very strong. In fact, the power in this rarely uttered phrase is truly profound. It’s a great example of what Solomon was talking about when he said, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” (Proverbs 18:21 NIV)
When they are coupled together in humility they become a strong and transcending phrase. If spoken often, with sincerity and out of love this phrase brings life: conflicts can take a turn towards peace, relationships can move towards reconciliation, harmony can have hope of being restored.
So why are these two words sometimes withheld? Why are they stolen from our lips by our heart, removed from our insensitive vocabulary? Is it that they can’t be believed without reflection? Are they lost without honesty? Are they difficult to believe without a genuine spirit? Absolutely. They are impotent words when they don’t begin with the heart. When spoken for good, they are only as formidable as the truthfulness in which they are told.
They are impotent words when they don’t begin with the heart.
But there is another reason why this phrase may not pass our lips. Because as powerful as they are in bringing life, they also can be twisted to a sharp point and spoken in a way that brings death. When spoken from the heart with malice and hatred, they can pierce the heart of the one they are directed at, killing any hope of consideration, understanding, or reconciliation. When voiced drenched in sarcasm, they become words of war, capable of driving a wedge deeper between two souls.
When we have experienced pain through hearing these words, we may be reluctant to voice them ourselves, for when we do, we may bring back memories of how they’ve been used against us. But let me encourage you to put aside the past, and speak them boldly, with truth and life.
Let me encourage you to say theses words often, but before they pass your lips, check your heart. Remember these words have great power with intent, to lift up or to destroy. Don’t let them be spoken in anger or with malice, but in love and humility speak them in truth and with sincerity. When we do this I believe our God will begin to chip away at the walls we’ve built around our hearts and the healing we so desperately need will finally begin.
Are you the first or last to say “I’m sorry”? What other phrases have the power of life or death?