Relationship Weeds Day 5: Harsh Words
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1, ESV)
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29, ESV).
A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back. (Proverbs 29:11, ESV)
There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18, ESV)
Can you remember all the great things people have said about you throughout your life? I can remember a few, especially those that weren’t very complimentary. I remember praise for accomplishing certain milestones or tasks, and I remember promises made involving serious things, like marriage vows. I remember whispered words of encouragement when I was walking through some very difficult moments in life, but man, oh man, I remember harsh words.
Why is it that the really bad things we have heard stick with us, filling us with whispers of doubt and fear in moments of weakness? They lie under the surface of our memories, easily erupting when we need them the least. It should give us great pause before we allow ourselves to speak, knowing that the impact of our words can last for decades—sometimes even forever.
Rash words really are like sword thrusts, aiming at our hearts and oftentimes wounding more seriously than a physical injury. We must constantly learn to rein in our words. At any moment, given the wrong situation, we can so easily lash out with hurtful comments. This is especially true with those closest to us—the ones who love us most and will probably forgive our verbal jabs. I find this is fairly common among couples learning to live side by side, day after day.
Stressful situations can lead us to be careless with our words. Feeling hungry, sleepy or ill can also lead us to snap or say something rude or unkind. When we use words that are harsh or unkind, Scripture says we speak as a fool. These words have consequences and reveal the state of our hearts. If you’re known as one that can aptly cut with your words in a clever, sarcastic or cruel way, you are not a picture of Christ.
Our society places undue value on sarcasm and criticism, but within a marriage or any relationship, that form of speech damages and tears down. Our speech, as believers, should build up and encourage. As I write this, I am convicted when I think of many times I have used clever, cutting words and felt almost proud of how I put someone in their place. May God change our hearts and may we be convicted of our speech when it falls short.
Marriages need kindness. Your spouse needs words that affirm and encourage. There is no situation where we are justified in using harsh language. My challenge to each of us today is to pay attention to our words. What tone are you using when you speak? Is what you’re saying beneficial or destructive? Words are often forgotten, but it’s so important to know that harsh words are often remembered for many years, causing emotional and mental pain. Speak kindly, and by doing so, it will reveal the Spirit of God within you.
I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak. (Matthew 12:36, ESV)