My mom always told me to be careful what I say. You never know who may be listening or what they may be hearing. And (mom and the Bible agree on this) the tongue has the ability to kill. With our tongues we can nag, demoralize, tear apart, tear down, cause conflict, spread rumors, split families, split churches, cause wars and create chaos. It's such an incredible weapon.
But such as incredible is our inability to listen or to hear what others are saying. You see, what we hear can often be skewed by our own experiences or by what we expect others to say. Literally, our upbringing can act as a filter on the things we hear. And, in some cases, what we are expecting someone to say can keep us from hearing what is actually said.
That happened near the end of World War II and cost more than 100,000 people their lives. By the end of 1945, the Japanese were weary from fighting and prepared to accept the generous terms of surrender that were offered by the United States. In fact, they were thrilled that the U. S. was offering such a lenient end to the hostilities. The Japanese cabinet was waiting for official word from the U. S. that these would, indeed, be the terms when the Japanese emperor called a press conference and the Japanese press made a fatal error. Emperor Suzuki used a Japanese word--"mokusatsu"--which had two meanings. One definition is to "hold off comment to a later point." The other, the one that the press service expected from their leaders and that they chose to use, was "ignore." Rather than the Allied leaders hearing that Japan was waiting to comment, they heard a Japanese government who was refusing to listen to their generous offers. President Truman had no other option but to allow the use of both atomic bombs to bring an end to the madness. The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed--in part because an Emperor did not choose his words carefully and a reporter allowed his expectations to temper what he heard.
Be careful with your words--and your ears--today. Either could lead to broken relationships or someone's self-esteem being crushed. Let your words be encouraging and affirming for all who hear you today.