"A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit"
a soothing tongue
The word in Hebrew is actually a healing tongue. This could be one that you develop and use on other people or one that is used on you. Both are a source of life into people's lives. This type of tongue does not arise by happenstance but instead by choices about what to say and how to say it; about when to say something and whether to say something. We can all develop a healing tongue.
A healing tongue is one that promotes wholeness and growth and strength. This means that the person who would wield a healing tongue must ask the question, “How do I bring about health in the person I am speaking with? Is it by not speaking except to follow their train of thought? Is it by encouraging the positive strengths in this person’s life? Is it by suggesting the need for change in an area in order to reach maximal potential? Is it by comforting and understanding where the other person is? Is it by being sympathetic with the other person's plight and situation? Is it by exhorting to specific action that will bring a person a new level of health or growth?” These are all appropriate actions of a healing tongue.
We must ask ourselves the question, “What can I say that will bring about the greatest amount of healing in this person's life?” Now there are some times when certain things need to be said, but I may not be the person to say them. So what I can say is a recommendation to go to a person who can say the more difficult thing. Many people can see the difficult thing that must be said, but only some people will be heard or accepted when it is said. Too many people want to be God to other people instead of just promoting health as much as possible.
but perversion in it crushes the spirit
The word perversion is the Hebrew word meaning twisted. This would suggest that the writer is contrasting the person who brings and promotes healing with the person who seems to promote healing but really has a different motive or purpose. The motive is twisted or not apparent at the first blush. When a person discovers that they have been flattered or positioned or manipulated, it will crush them.
Notice that there is no specific remedy for those who would use a perverse tongue on you in this proverb. This is more about the positive power of the healing tongue. The motivation to develop a healing tongue and be around those who have a healing tongue is great.
A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit.
It gives some form of emotional and relational energy to have someone believe in you and root for you. On the other hand, it absolutely devastates a person to be played for the fool – to believe that you are loved, wanted, liked, etc., all the while you are really being used or even worse, despised. It is the twist in the use of the tongue that is like a dagger to the heart.