Words spoken to us can hurt; Words can also feel good and lift our spirits and evoke good feelings about ourselves, our situation or circumstances. They can inspire us and encourage us to take a next step or step out in faith. Words are truly powerful. Which is what brought me to share my thoughts on my blog.
As a Health Coach, I've become very aware of just how many aspects of our life effect our health. I began with a focus almost entirely on what we eat, but have come to learn it is so much more than what we consume to satisfy our hunger. Our overall health is not just about our physical wellness or ability. Our health is effected by the status of our Spirituality, Creativity, Finances, Career, Education, Physical Activity, Home Environment, Relationships, Social Life, Work Life, Work Environment and our society's overall culture too. It's a lot! Each of these things has an impact on our physical health along with what we actually eat. IN fact, all of those things can influence WHAT we eat!
Today's blog post is about words though. Every day we speak to other people: Our co-workers, friends, spouses, children, clerks at grocery stores, through phone calls, email, text and private messages.
*How often do we really think about the message we are sending to these people?
*How often are we polite, courteous and kind to the stranger at the store ringing up our purchase but we are the opposite to those at home?
*Do we take some time to send something positive?
*Do we choose the better word or do we just generalize and assume they will get what we mean?
*Do we remind ourselves that the person on the receiving end our words is a human being just like us?
I'm a Christian by choice, that's the word I'd use to describe my religious affiliation. However, that doesn't describe my walk with Christ or what I personally believe about how I should conduct myself in this world. BUT, a LOT of assumptions are made when I tell some people that I am a Christian. I used to think that their assumptions were their problem, but I've had a change of heart on that. I started paying attention and listening. The details of some of their stories were different, but they had some common themes: They had been hurt by "Christians" who were not walking in love and who had failed to LISTEN and understand that a person's experience is valid and has weight. Instead of showing them how to walk out of it victorious, they shamed, blamed and chastised. They criticized and were harsh. These people who were hurt by others who call themselves Christians have justifiable reasons to be hurt. Harsh words had been used against them when they were already hurting due to some extreme circumstances going on in their lives.
Which brings me to this question: As Christians, do words REALLY matter? Or is it only the exhortations, encouragement and compliments that people should listen to and not the insults, negative words, harsh, critical words of cruelty and judgement? Is it not hypocritical to preach "Don't be offended so easily" while not minding our own words to others? and I include other Christians in this as well, we should definitely watch how we speak to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Are we not to speak to everyone in love? (Sometimes love can be firm while still being kind. Love doesn't mean being a pushover and "sweet").
I've heard the double speak myself. People can be so rude, insensitive, sarcastic and even cruel in one breath, tell the person not to be "so sensitive" (which is really gas-lighting) and then in the next tell them how wonderful they are for something else!?! Confused????? You'd have every right to be. It IS confusing. Which words matter more????? The compliments or the criticism that was spoken harshly and without love???? I don't think it's fair, right or Christ-like to tell someone to ignore some words but not others. ALL words matter according to the Bible.
The Bible warns about our words. Many times. Jesus spoke this about our words in Matthew 12: 35-37:
"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."
*Underscore added by me
That sends a pretty strong message, in my opinion. It puts a whole new spin on using jokes, teasing, sarcasm and the like, don't you think???? Wouldn't those be "careless words"????
Is it loving, kind or Christ-like to use sarcasm against another person? Are Christians trying to justify their words by telling the other person to not "be so sensitive" and "don't be so easily offended"??? Are they just chalking it up to the other person's own hurt???? But don't we often speak out of our hurt? So aren't your words coming from your hurt? You can't have it both ways.
The Bible has more to say on the topic of words and how we use them. I like this scripture out of Proverbs 18:19:
"A brother who has been insulted is harder to win back than a walled city, and arguments separate people like the barred gates of a palace. "
Hmmmm, a "brother who has been insulted"--- but we teach "Don't live life by your feelings" and that "You choose how you feel about what is said to you". I am not a Bible scholar by any means, but I do have a better understanding of God's heart than I used to, so I take this to mean that we can't just reduce what we say to meaningless, mindless ramblings and think we will get away with it. If the positive words we speak matter then so do the negative ones and we ARE responsible for what we say it is not just on the other person to not be offended. We are also NOT to cause another to stumble. I think if Christians focused MORE on not causing others to stumble, they'd walk more in love and less in self-righteousness. This scripture tells ME, that it is possible to insult someone and it be my fault and my responsibility to repair the relationship and it's not just about the other person choosing to not be offended or hurt. If our compliments can give life, then our insults can steal it.
"What you say can mean life or death. Those who speak with care will be rewarded." (Prov. 18:21)
Maybe if we , as individuals and Christians, decided to be more cautious about what we say v. putting all the responsibility on the other person to just be OK with it, we'd be better off?? And we'd be walking in love and paying attention to scriptures??? How is it ok to be so cavalier with our own words (when the Bible clearly says that we should not be) and expect no one to ever be hurt, insulted or offended???
"People will be rewarded for what they say; they will be rewarded for how they speak." (Prov. 18:20)
Are your words worthy of a reward? Or are you careless and thoughtless with them, choosing to generalize, speak condescendingly, insult through sarcasm, talk over, interrupt, be rude or harsh? Do you dismiss the experiences of others? Do you listen to react, respond or learn? As a Christian, it is our responsibility to pay attention to how we interact with others, not focus on their responses and reactions, then call them out for it because we chose to be a jerk.
"Our words to others WILL evoke an emotional response and the only thing we accomplish when we preach AT others, fellow Christians included, that we should not "live by our feelings" and "you're too sensitive" or "don't be so easily offended" is that we come off sounding like a hypocrite and a very cold, apathetic, insensitive, self righteous, religious person who talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk. It is LITERALLY your example and how you treat others that either draws them to Christ or turns them away. You can't be the salt of the earth and the light unto all men if you're too busy treating them like they are the ones who need to behave better and your behavior doesn't matter. Aren't YOU the saved one, the transformed one, the one who is to be different and set apart from the world?????
I'm here to tell you---YOUR words can literally defeat someone. Even if you are saved, you can be used to steal another piece of someone's purpose and self-worth. LIFE and DEATH is in the word. So, you can grump around all you want, harumph and mumble till the cows come home, BUT either the Bible is TRUE--or it isn't. You can't pick and choose what parts are meaningful and then skip others. You can't pick and choose which words are powerful and which aren't; They all carry weight. Why else would scripture tell us that words can be life or death even exist???? Why are we told to SPEAK LIFE over others?
"Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person."
"Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;" (It seems many want to skip the first two and just focus on the "slow to anger" part especially when THEY are the ones that are the target of anger because they were slow to hear and quick to speak!!!)
"So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it." (So, here's the thing, BE CAREFUL the words you send out because if you speak death to someone, that is the PURPOSE it will achieve)
James 1:26 "
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless." (Yeah, so all of those sarcastic remarks, etc.. that's an unbridled tongue, bro!)
So, before anyone calls me out---I'm not here to act like I've got it all figured out and nary a harsh word is ever spoken by me--that would not be the truth. However, I'm more aware of the weight my words carry and I do try to be more careful and selective of the words I use. There are some individuals who will be hell-bent on misunderstanding, mis-interpreting, making assumptions, drawing their own conclusions and taking things the wrong way. Those are people who are hurting though and need to do some deep inner work on themselves. The thing is, this is what I'm learning: IF I slow down and LISTEN to them, then when I respond I can measure my words accordingly and respond in a way that is helpful and life-giving. Isn't that what we should be doing??? Yes, I still mess up and my frustration will get the better of me but it happens less often. I will never attain perfection--neither will you. But we can do better and awareness is half the battle to improve ourselves, walk in love and work towards spiritual and emotional maturity. Put the expectation of better and more right behavior on YOURSELF, where it belongs, not on the other person.