Sunday, October 23, 2016

When words hurt and what the Bible has to say about it

I have no doubt you've been torn apart by someone's words before.

Nasty, rude, hateful, insensitive words have a way of branding our hearts and never letting us forget them. Even after we've forgiven the one who said them and time has healed the open wound, the words and the memory they created still haunt us.

It's painful to reflect on the words spoken to us that caused so much damage, yet it's an important exercise. The person who hurt you so deeply with their sharp tongue has also been hurt. Which means you who has been hurt has also been the giver of a verbal lashing.

To inflict pain upon others is part of the human condition. As Christians, it's a part we recklessly try to avoid. We spend our lives attempting to be as Christlike as possible, yet we fail at times. When we fail, our careless words wreck havoc on our relationships.

How do you handle it when you've said too much or just enough to cross the line?

Some common and completely wrong reactions to letting our tongue run wild are:
  • Denial- claiming you did nothing wrong and had the right to say what you did. It was the honest truth, after all.
  • Blaming- ignoring your own mess because, well, they started it! They deserved it.
  • Avoidance- pretending it didn't happen by busying yourself with other things. If you just pretend the hurt isn't there, it will resolve itself.
  • Obstinance- believing your were in the right. They should apologize to you, not the other way around.
I'm guilty of all four reactions, which is why I know you might struggle with them too.

Let's look at what the Bible has to say about taming the tongue, and the warnings against the destructiveness that occurs when we don't.

Matthew 12:36-37, "I tell you, on the day of judgement people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." These verses are Jesus speaking to a crowd, warning them about the importance of the words they speak.

Speaking harsh, untrue, and unforgiving words is a reflection of what is in our hearts

Ouch. That hurts when I think about it. When something nasty comes out of my mouth, it's a reflection of my heart, a piece of myself I like to think of as kind, forgiving, patient, and loving. 
Why is it our worst words are often reserved for those we love the most? My theory is that we say the worst things to our closest loved ones because we know they will love us no matter what. Even when we're horrible, they have committed to us and will love us anyway. This is just a theory, of course. However, if it's got an ounce of truth to it, it's heartbreaking.

We shouldn't have harsh words for anyone, but especially not to those who choose to spend their lives loving us.

I imagine you're a lot like me. You want to use the power of your words to build up and encourage those around you, not tear them down, belittle them, or cause pain. Though unfortunately, you're human. You're going to mess up. You're going to say mean, hurtful things at some point.

This doesn't mean you should resign from trying to keep your heart, thoughts and words pure. 

In fact, it's just the opposite. We know we're susceptible to running our mouth, so each day, we should pray for wisdom, patience, and a clean heart, mind, and mouth.

As always, it is my goal to point you to Christ in the midst of your struggles. I'll leave you with three verses you can pray to God to help you tame your tongue and to use your words to bring life and healing instead of pain. I encourage you to memorize them, and to use them in your everyday life.
  • Psalm 19:14, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
  • Psalm 51:10, " Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."
  • Psalm 141:3, "Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!"
I'd love to hear from you. What kind of struggles have you been dealing with lately? What has God been teaching you?