Words are the cause of wounds that I still carry in my heart although they were spoken some 40 years ago. And words are the source of many of my own regrets. What I’ve said, or what’s been said to me has done more to build me up or tear me down than any single act I can think of.
No wonder the Holy Bible says that there is death and life in the power of the tongue. (Proverbs 18:21)
Our words, and the words of others, have a profound impact on the person we are today.
For example, if someone told us regularly we were beautiful and that we would grow up to be accomplished and smart, more than likely we did. If, on the other hand, they told us we were dumb and ugly, then we probably struggle with our self-image because of their words.
Most of the counseling sessions I do both privately and through my Grief Recovery work are because of the impact of someone’s words. An insensitive husband, a hurtful comment made by a friend, accusations by a rebellious child. The list is endless. And the damage can, at times, be irreparable.
I had one 80-year-old client in my Grief Recovery class who realized that the source of her internal angst and depression was because of a searing comment her now deceased mother-in-law made to her on her wedding day. Her husband, (also now deceased) never defended her, and although they were married for over 60 years, the pain of the words said… and not said were a source of a lifetime of hurt for her.
Almost all hurts are the result of words that were either misused or ill-timed. And the majority of misunderstandings and regrets are because of either too many words, or not enough.
This concept was affirmed to me recently by a message preached recently by our youth pastor. Many things he said resonated with me, but one in particular really hit home:
“Destinies are determined by words,” Reverend Stephen Rodriguez, Bartlett UPC
Oh, how true that is. Our destinies are so often determined by our own words, the words of others, or the words we hope to receive from others. All too often, I fear we remain paralyzed into not becoming all that God wants us to because of the affects of words spoken to us, about us, or by us.
So many times in my own life, I have longed for words of approval from someone that I admired only to be disappointed because the words never came. And there have been times when I said way too many words – either to myself or another that would have been better left unsaid.
We need to be careful with our words.
The story of Job in the Holy Bible is a great example of words. Job’s so called friends – Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite – each used their words to condemn and discourage Job. They came to Job supposedly to console him for the loss of his children, his wealth, and his health.
What’s interesting to me is that at first Job’s friends seem to have gotten it right. They tore their clothes as a sign of empathizing with Job’s plight, and sat with him in silence for a full week.
“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.” (Job 2:11-13)
But somewhere along the way, Job’s friends’ humanity must have gotten the best of them because ultimately they each blasted Job with acerbic words that no doubt crushed Job’s already depleted spirit.
Eliphaz the Temanite spoke first:
“As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same.” (Job 4:8)
In other words, Job, you are getting what you deserve. You must have sin somewhere in your life for something this terrible to have happened to you.
Talk about kicking someone when they are down. Have you ever done this to anyone? Passed judgment on them because of the sudden calamity that befell them? Or have you ever been on the receiving end? Had someone just obliterated your already wounded heart?
We need to be careful with our words.
Next up was Bildad:
“If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy, if you are pure and upright, surely then he will rouse himself for you and restore your rightful habitation.” (Job 8:6)
So basically, Bildad’s take on things was that Job needed to repent. Think if you were lying in a hospital dying of cancer, your home had been foreclosed on, your husband left you because he didn’t want to be with a sick wife, and as you lie there, your very best friend in all the world comes up to you and says, “Well, if you’d just repent, maybe God would have mercy on you and restore your health, home, and marriage.”
In reality, that’s what Bildad did.
God forgive us for ever thinking we know why someone is suffering.
And then there was Zophar:
“For you say, ‘My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in God’s eyes.’ but oh, that God would speak and open his lips to you,and that he would tell you the secrets of wisdom! For he is manifold in understanding. Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves.” (Job 11:4-6)
Zophar’s words seem the most biting. In essence, he railed at Job and told him that no matter how innocent he says he is that he obviously had sin in his life or none of the things he was suffering would have happened.
God Ultimately Vindicates Job
In the end, of course we know that God vindicated Job and would not have forgiven Zophar, Bildad, and Eliphaz if Job hadn’t said it was okay. (Job 42:7-8) And God validated Job’s innocence and when He said that Job never once sinned with his lips. (Job 1:22)
NOTE TO SELF: Be very careful what words I use when someone else is going through a trial… and when I am going through my own trial. God is taking note.
Managing Your Words
Learning to control your words can be challenging at first, especially if speaking before thinking has become a way of life. Here are some tips that might help you to manage your words better:
-Determine to not speak one ill word about the person who agitates you the most. We all have someone who strikes that last nerve and irritates us. Make a decision to not talk about them. Period. Not to vent to your spouse, not to whine and complain to God. To absolutely only speak good things about them. I have done this. It is not easy. But I will tell you that it gets easier with time and lots of practice!
-Pray blessings on everyone in your life. Especially on those who seem to challenge you, or make you feel jealous or threatened. See my post from last week called Second Fiddle for more on this.
–Ask daily for God to give you the ability to manage your words in a way that honors Him. And seek forgiveness quickly from Him and from those you may have hurt with your words. Doing this on a regular basis will help you to develop a lifestyle of speaking words that edify and uplift.
-Fill your mind and heart with God’s words of life from the Holy Bible and from uplifting positive worship songs like this one from Hawk Nelson, appropriately titled WORDS:
Be blessed today my dear reader. Please know that will be in prayer this week for you and the words that you choose.