Our lives are fuller and better when we are in relationships. Whether it’s with friends, co-workers, college buddies, parents, siblings, husband or wife–we all have relationships that bring us joy and fulfillment, but they can also cause us pain. Over the course of our lives, inevitably, we all have encountered occasional issues in our relationships. Things don’t always go the way we plan and, oftentimes, if we are honest, we can look back and identify places where we have sabotaged our relationships. Other times, we’re not even aware that we are sabotaging our relationships until it is too late. Over the next five weeks, we will look at some of the behaviors that undermine our relationships. We start with our words.
Something To Talk About:
Words, all 1,025,109 of them. We think words, hear words, speak words, sing words, write words, and read words—every day. From past experiences, we know that words are powerful and virtually impossible to control. And we can be so quick to use our words as a negative weapon in our relationships. And, once they are said, they cannot be taken back. Instead, they linger in our relationships, some boiling to the surface, others lurking out of sight, but there nonetheless. It is like having a pain in your stomach that seems impossible to pinpoint or describe—until you are lying on an examination table with a doctor probing your abdomen:
“Does that hurt?”
“How about there?”
Yes, that’s where it hurts. I knew something was not quite right. It’s the words that I spoke in anger to my wife. Or my impatience boiling over with my kids. Or yelling at my employee because the project is not going well, or the I don’t care attitude with my neighbor that is reflected in my words. Despite our ability to forgive and forget, a well-timed hateful string of words can emotionally damage a person and a relationship for years to come. Ow. Yes, that’s exactly where it hurts.
God calls us to first have a right relationship with Him, and secondly to have right relationships with all others. As Roy said on Sunday, you can’t fix your words with your words; you need to get to the root of the matter. Your mouth simply speaks out from what is in your heart. We don’t have a “harness our words” problem, we have a heart problem.
Roy referenced Matthew 22:33-37: “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment 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.”
A problem controlling your words is not simply a personality flaw or a product of your environment or your culture. It’s an issue of the heart. When we say something we shouldn’t say, we can use the excuse, “I don’t know where that came from.” But actually, we do. It came from the heart.
When God sits on the throne of our hearts we start to reflect His grace. In our relationships with other people, words used wisely and well can heal hurts, unravel misunderstandings, point to truth, express love and affection, show respect, reflect repentance, offer forgiveness, bring joy and laughter, give comfort, and point people to Jesus.
1. “Words give life, words bring death – you choose.” How does that statement apply to our life?
2. Roy said that “Your deepest pain and your greatest joys have been accompanied by words.” What is your experience?
3. Do you pause and think before you send an email, text or Facebook post? Do you think it is wise to do so?
4. Read James 3: 3-6 again. What are these verses telling you?
5. Read Proverbs 15:28. How can we learn to ponder/think before we speak?
6. Your words can reveal who you are as a person. Reflect on what you have spoken today. What can you learn about where your heart is based on your conversations?
Take One Thing Home With You:
The problem more often than not is this: sometimes words roll off my tongue without apparent forethought. Like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or placing my lunch order at McDonald’s, we often begin to speak before we have completely decided what we are going to say. Angela has often wondered how speaking and thinking are coordinated temporally in my mind. It is one thing to speak without thinking when ordering a quarter-pounder with cheese. It is something else to do so within the contexts of my relationships.
The answer? To pause, and to think before you speak. It will help you prevent putting your foot in your mouth quite as often. This seems like a simple suggestion, but it is not as easy as you may think because we’re not trained or prepared to think about our words. We are trained and prepared to use our words.
That may not sound like a significant difference, but using our words is second-nature while thinking about our words is an infrequent exercise. It’s like talking to someone who hasn’t yet completely mastered English. When talking with him or her, we pause to think about each word carefully — to insure we are being understood by that person. But when we are talking to husband, wife, son daughter, sister brother, etc., we tend to just react. We don’t pause to consider what we say and whether we may be causing harm, until it is too late.
But imagine if you did pause, not only to think about what you’re trying to communicate, but to consider the words themselves as you use them. Imagine if you paused to consider the impact your words have on others. Imagine if you used words to help others recover from your other words. And imagine if you paused to consider whether your words glorifiy God.