“Reckless words pierce like a sword.” Proverbs 12:18
“With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor” Proverbs 11:9
“The tongue has the power of life and death. Proverbs 18:21
Growing up we all heard the nursery rhyme, “sticks and stones will break our bones but words will never hurt us.” It is a lie. The wounds may be invisible, but our words can cause others to experience deep injury and often leave permanent scars.
When we’re angry, the Bible warns us to be very careful (Proverbs 4:4). It’s at this time we feel most tempted to use our words as weapons. When we are angry, we may actually want to hurt someone using our words. Don’t do it. You can’t delete your words once they’ve left your mouth and injured someone.
But let’s look at what our words show us about what’s going on in own heart. Jesus tells us “for out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). What comes up and out of our mouth reveals what’s in our heart. When I yell at my child or my husband, for example, my words often expose my demanding, selfish, and prideful heart. I want my way. Now! And, I use my words and voice tone to get it. Or, when I think I’m right and the other person is wrong, I can swiftly demean and demoralize someone with a few choice phrases.
The Bible commands us not to murder, but Jesus warns us that an angry heart with a reckless tongue can do much damage (Matthew 5:21, 22). We’ve all experienced the wounds of an undisciplined tongue. Decide today that you will no longer use your words as a weapon to hurt others. Instead, use the enormous power of what you say to someone to encourage, uplift, instruct, and love him or her. Paul tells us that “love does no harm to its neighbor” (Romans 13:10) and that love does not demand its own way (1 Corinthians 13:5 )
Is there someone who has been the recipient of your harsh words that you need to ask forgiveness from? And, if verbal assault has been a repetitive problem for you here are three steps you can take to stop this destructive habit.
1. No matter who or what provokes you, recognize that you still have choices to make. Remember, your words expose your heart. Stop blaming other people or stressful situations for you own loss of self-control.
2. In addition to asking for forgiveness every time you blow it with your words, make amends to the person you have hurt. One way might be to give a hefty contribution to one of their favorite charities or to do a distasteful chore for them that they need done. In this way you are reminding yourself that your sinful behaviors have consequences and if you don’t want to have to pay those consequences, it’s important that you learn to control your actions.
3. Pray and ask God for greater fruit of the spirit which are self-control, love, and patience. When your heart is filled with God’s love instead of wanting your own way, you are far less likely want to use your tongue as a weapon to hurt someone even if you are feeling angry in the moment.
Friends, what do you do to exercise verbal self-control in the heat of the moment?