Gracious words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. — Proverbs 16:24
A woman once shared a powerful story about how kind words can have a huge impact on our lives. One night, her father arrived home from work and sat down at the table for dinner. After a long and stressful day, the only “dinner” his wife had managed to make was two pieces of extremely burnt toast and a jar of jam.
The woman, then just a child, remembers that evening as she sat waiting to see if her father would notice and comment on the charred bread. Instead, he ate the toast and began asking her about her day. She doesn’t recall her answer, but she remembers that it was then her mother apologized for the burnt toast. Her father’s response? “Honey, I love burnt toast!”
Later that night, at bedtime, she asked her father if he really did love burnt toast. He took her in his arms and said, “Your mom had a long and tough day, and she was really tired. Burnt toast doesn’t hurt anyone, but words do.”
That father was a hero that night. He saved his wife, his daughter, and himself from what could have been a catastrophic evening for them all.
What might have happened if he had made his wife feel badly? What if he had gotten angry? What if he simply stated that he hated burnt toast for dinner? All those responses would have been extremely hurtful. Instead, the man chose kindness and used his words to strengthen his wife and encourage her.
In Proverbs we read: “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Long before modern medicine officially recognized the mind-body connection, King Solomon taught us that when we soothe the soul with kind words, it will have a positive impact on the body as well. When we speak with love and kindness, we bring healing to the body and soul.
It’s no accident that the Hebrew word for “speaking,” daber, is connected to the word davar, meaning “thing.” This is because once our words leave our mouths, they ultimately become something tangible – either for bad or for good.
It’s so easy to forget ourselves and to speak harshly as a gut reaction to something upsetting someone may have said or done to us. But let us learn from this lesson how we can turn everything around for the better and how we, too, can be the hero in someone’s life by simply speaking kind and encouraging words to them.
If we pause before we speak and consider the impact our words might have, we can choose to take the better course — to soothe, to heal, and to love.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President