Proverbs 12:18

ESV There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
NIV The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
NASB There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, But the tongue of the wise brings healing.
CSB There is one who speaks rashly, like a piercing sword; but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
NLT Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.
KJV There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.
NKJV There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, But the tongue of the wise promotes health.

What does Proverbs 12:18 mean?

An English proverb encourages people to ignore hurtful words: "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me." While that's true in a physical sense, words can cause damage of their own. While children are especially vulnerable, even adults often recall words that cut them deeply, like a sword into their spirit. The tongue can be used to hurt others or to heal their anxieties and sorrows (Proverbs 12:25). Unkind words can pierce the heart like swords. Snide remarks, gossip, undue criticism, cursing, name-calling, and false accusations hurt people, and should not be spoken by believers (Colossians 4:6).

A recent statement from Solomon adds context to this advice. Earlier, Scripture warned against foolishly speaking one's mind without restraint (Proverbs 12:16). The hurtful words this verse condemns are specifically said to be "rash," using a Hebrew term also seen in Leviticus 5:4. Both contexts involve speaking carelessly, or thoughtlessly. The ability to control one's tongue—to consider words carefully before speaking—is a hallmark of godly wisdom (Proverbs 10:19; 11:12; 17:28; James 3:2, 5).

The Galatian believers had fallen into the habit of hurting one another with unkind words, so Paul warns, "If you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another" (Galatians 5:15). Writing to the Ephesians, Paul commands: "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths" (Ephesians 4:29). He adds in verse 31: "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice" (Ephesians 4:31). In the same chapter, he endorses the use of healing language. He urges the believers to use words that build one another up (Ephesians 4:29) and writes: "Be kind to one another" (Ephesians 4:32). A wise person will use his tongue to encourage others (1 Thessalonians 4:18; Hebrews 10:24).
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