December 6, 2016
Please. Thank you. Yes, ma’am. You’re beautiful. I love you. All-powerful words that can bless, inspire and embolden. Get away. You’re fired. Shut up. I hate you. Words that can isolate, demoralize and devastate.
Words are fine tools. Some help relationships and connections to flourish. But as we saw in this last election cycle, both sides used words as heat-seeking missiles and weapons, deftly defending our psyche and attacking those who threaten our me-first kingdom. The world has come to applaud and exalt quick-witted retorts, just look at a good comedian’s shtick. My own need to be in control, to be the expert, to show my competence, or to cover my vulnerability fueled my mastery of the quick, sarcastic, verbal attack. Unfortunately, my wife and girls have been innocent victims of my “skill.”
I came to realize that when I used words to damage others, I was actually damaging myself as well. These wounds were to important elements of who I was: my self-respect, self-esteem, honor, dignity, relationships, brain chemistry, connection to God—and they were all injured and damaged. This common, but damaging, phenomenon is evident whenever we reflexively use words as self-protective maneuvers. But reality check: they are actually self-destructive word grenades.
Another downside of using verbal attacks as a counter-offensive is that they interfere with my opportunity to learn, practice and hone much healthier methods to deal with the perceived attacks. You see, God has other ways that are more effective than my knee-jerk word grenades. But I will never get a chance to learn and develop them if I keep resorting to my poor knee-jerk defense tactics.
The Word of God gives us helpful instruction about how to develop healthy new skills. What comes out of our mouths is really a reflection of what is going on in our hearts. So in order to modify our word usage, we need to work on our hearts. God has certainly worked on my heart over the years. My swearing is gone and my verbal attacks are markedly decreased. I still have work to do. But as I let God in more, the temptation and need to protect myself by hurling word grenades is minimized. I am seeing these situations more clearly and resting in His defense of me and allowing Him to soothe me.
Today let your speech come under the control of the Holy Spirit. Say split-second prayers before you respond. Think before you speak, not as you speak. Use your words to lift up someone, to heal instead of hurt. As your positive speech patterns replace your negative ones, the increased joy and peace in your relationships will simply amaze you. Consider forwarding this devotional to thank someone who has extended grace to you with his or her words. Whether you hold your tongue and think of a Godly response or you speak quickly and defensively with a knee-jerk missile, it’s your decision, so choose well.
Dear Father God, thank You for the awesome gift of speech. I confess, Father that I have misused this gift. I confess, Father, that I have used my mouth and mind to hurt others. Forgive me. I pray that You’ll fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that I may have the discipline to think before I speak. I want to feel comfortable, secure in who I am and without the need to gossip or go on a verbal attack to make myself feel better. Grow my heart so I can shrink my tongue. Help me pray before answering the phone and before responding to others in conversation. Let others see You in me through the words I speak. I pray these words in the name of the living Word, Jesus Christ. And all God’s people say AMEN!
“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19