In 2014, Michelle Carter encouraged her 18-year-old boyfriend Conrad Roy to kill himself. She encouraged him to get back in his truck and complete the suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning when he had second thoughts about it.
In a landmark case, a Massachusetts judge has ruled that she is responsible for his death. The judge sentenced her to 15 months, but she is out while she appeals her case. This is a case where words are being held accountable.
During the trial: “The defendant’s lawyers maintained that her texts were constitutionally protected speech under the First Amendment. The court, however, did not create a bright line rule on where free speech ends and criminality begins. Instead, the court ruled that a physical act of violence is not necessary to sustain involuntary manslaughter charges and that each case is ‘entirely fact specific’ ” (David Kravets, “Teen Girl Who Texted Friend to Commit Suicide Must Stand Trial,” Ars Technica, July 1, 2016).
Be a healer to others by your words! Ask God to inspire you to say the right thing at the right time.
Martin W. Healy is the chief counsel of the Massachusetts Bar Association. Here is what he had to say about this case: “The defendant’s fate was sealed through the use of her own words. The communications illustrated a deeply troubled defendant whose actions rose to the level of wanton and reckless disregard for the life of the victim.”
While people debate back and forth if Carter should have been even prosecuted and convicted or whether her speech fall under the heading of freedom of speech, we should ask, “How would God look at it?”
Does our tongue have any power to lead a person to death?
Could we be guilty of killing someone with our own negative words? Maybe not physically, but spiritually. The story of Michelle Carter has made me do a lot of thinking about my own words, and their positive or negative effects on myself and others.
God inspired a lot to be written about the use of our tongue and the damage it can do. In Proverbs alone, there are more than 150 scriptures about the tongue.
In Proverbs 18:21 Proverbs 18:21Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
American King James Version×, we learn that “the tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” In another place, it says, “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18 Proverbs 12:18There is that speaks like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.
American King James Version×). The use of our tongue should be used to uplift and encourage others. Conrad Roy would probably still be alive today had Michelle used her words to encourage him to live! She could have used words to give him hope. Better yet she could have encouraged him that life is worth living and that there is a God in Heaven who cares deeply for him and wants the best for him. That he was not a hopeless case.
Roy was in a bad state and needed encouragement as described in Proverbs 12:25 Proverbs 12:25Heaviness in the heart of man makes it stoop: but a good word makes it glad.
American King James Version×: “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Michelle could have used her tongue to bring healing. “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life” (Proverbs 15:4 Proverbs 15:4A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.
American King James Version×). “A man finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!” Proverbs 15:23 Proverbs 15:23A man has joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!
American King James Version×. “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24 Proverbs 16:24Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.
American King James Version×).
A post by Johanna Gash makes this point: “If you talk to people who work in the healing profession, they will tell you that whenever there is a patient who is surrounded by positive, optimistic, caring people who build him up and affirm him, that person has a much better chance of getting better and will normally recover a lot faster. When you have a patient who is off by himself and has no encouragement, or who is surrounded by negative, critical, pessimistic people, that person will have a much harder time getting better under normal circumstances. Why? Because pleasant words literally bring health to the bones. How blessed are you if you have somebody who comes alongside and uses words to lift you up. Doubly blessed are you if you are an encourager” (“The Tongue: Life and Death Are In Your Mouth!”).
While Michelle Carter is an extreme case, we all can be guilty of using our words in a negative way. If we are constantly putting a person down and finding fault, over time we could be killing the person on the inside. God expects us to be mindful of our words and use them to build up and encourage others. It is a difficult world filled with so much negativity, but our words can be a light in a very darken, discouraging, negative world.
Be a healer to others by your words! Ask God to inspire you to say the right thing at the right time. Let us become like Barnabas, who was deeply loved by many because he knew how to love and encourage others. The world is in desperate need for love, so let us do what we can to spread that love that comes from our Father in Heaven.
Negative words can hurt not just others, but when we direct them toward ourselves, they can be extremely harmful. Be careful about thinking negative things about yourself. Instead, remember we are a gift from God for His purpose. Be mindful of that. God only thinks positive things of us. He told ancient Israel, at a time when they were in serious trouble for their sins: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you’” (Jeremiah 29:11-12 Jeremiah 29:11-12  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, said the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
 Then shall you call on me, and you shall go and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
American King James Version×). We should think of others and ourselves in the way that God does toward us, and our words and thoughts should emulate that!
If you know of anyone who is thinking about killing himself or herself, encourage them to get help and to seek God for encouragement. While you do all you, can to encourage them to live!
God is our greatest encourager. So let us be more like Him in encouraging hope to others and do not forget to ask Him for encouragement when you need it. Death and life is in the power of the tongue. Use that power to help bring life and healing to others and to yourself. Words matter. They can even kill.