“You’re a bad kid. I’m sick and tired of you.” These were the words of my father as he physically beat me.
“I don’t want to be with you anymore. You mean nothing to me. You’re not worth it” These were the words I heard from my ex-wife while in divorce proceedings.
“You will never do ministry again. You’re not cut out for this. I don’t ever want to see you here ever again”. These were the last words from a pastor who dismissed me from ministry.
These were words spoken to me from people who I dearly loved at one point in my life. These words not only hurt, but they shaped and molded my life. My lack of self-worth when meeting new people. My lack of confidence when going out for sports or starting a new job. My desire for admiration and attention from women. Or the pain of rejection I go through when a girl I ask out says no. My coping mechanism before I was a Christian was that I would become numb to people’s words. I got very good at tuning out undesirable people. It’s crazy how powerful our small little tongues can be. I’ll be honest, I feel I was more affected by the damaging words that I heard than any physical abuse I endured. Words are powerful and can damage. Proverbs 18:21 says the tongue contains the power of both life and death. If you are reading this, I know I’m not the only one who has been affected by someone’s hurtful words. And sadly, I know I’m not the only who lives in regret of the words I have said that have caused hurt to others.
For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks’ – Matthew 12:34
Jesus described our speech as words that reflect what is going on in our hearts. Jesus mentions this to us because we are his ambassadors to the world and our words are supposed to reflect him. When we are sinned against, we are to respond with self-sacrificing, redemptive love. But in order to love and serve others, we have to die to our old selves. Just think of how powerful a tool of change we can be in someone else’s life if we forgive them? Especially knowing that our sanctification process is a result of God’s grace and forgiveness for us. We should look at our problems with one another as opportunities to allow God to draw each of us into deeper fellowship with him. If we continue to live in broken, unreconciled relationships with one another, then God can’t use us to reconcile those relationships to him.
- You can alter how you feel through changing the way you speak – This was life-changing for me when I started thinking and speaking positively about people instead of engaging in gossip.
- You don’t have to say everything you feel like saying – this is a hard one for me because I like to process through communication with others and sometimes my thoughts or emotions can come out without thinking. But because we are image bearers of God, he gives us the choice of using words of encouragement or words of destruction.
- The words you speak over people can change the course of their lives.
Wow – how powerful is that last statement! Even though I remember many of the hurt words that have been told to me, I clearly remember the encouraging ones too. I remember going to a new church after leaving ministry and talking to the church counselor about my situation. His words were “I’m glad you are here and know we want you here”. He trained me to be a chaplain for the church where I got to speak encouraging words to others that were hurting. My Dad and I reconciled and he called me every night after my divorce to make sure I was ok. His encouraging words got me through a difficult period of my life. And the encouraging words of the community God has surrounded me with continue to get me through my everyday life.
One of my favorite books is War of Words by Paul David Tripp. He talks about committing your life to a life of repentance in order to change your words. It starts with examining your heart first (Psalms 139:23-24). Ask God to show the heart behind your words and to reveal where you may have spoken out of fear, frustration or anger. Seek his forgiveness and confess any sin you have committed to him (and others). And know that we are his ambassadors to the world and that our words were meant to be an agent of change in other people’s lives. I hope as we continue on with this series that we all DECLARE WAR on our words and speak life into the people that we encounter.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. – Ephesians 4:29
– Travis Timmons