You’ve heard the bluff before – Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
Some friends have been shocked over the years when I tell them about our engagement pact. It was sort of an emotional prenuptial agreement (before we were aware prenuptials existed)
Here was the deal – I’d been wounded growing up, and I’m not proud to confess that I also hurt others with words, but I’d graduated, left home, and guided by my sister, Marlene, had made a determination. I had a choice. I did not have to be like that anymore, and I did not have to allow anyone else to use words as weapons to hurt me.
I accepted the engagement with Ken with the understanding that we would not jest or call each other names, that could be understood by us or anyone else as anything other than respectful or affectionate. We also promised one another to only use the words always and never in positive ways. We agreed because saying you always, or you never was really a negative exaggeration and because of love an impossibility.
Ken told me that as a man (human) he would likely disappoint me and possibly even hurt me, but he would never do either intentionally. That helped me to scratch some of my Cinderella expectations, to realize he had feelings just as I did, and to say, “How about if we just forget that ever happened.”
It wounds us to listen to some folk who regularly call each other dumbbell, old man, or whatever, and tell us they are just playing. I’ve actually heard some couples tell me their profanity was ‘love talk.’
I asked a wife if her and her spouse’s “name calling and playing with words” was ever hurtful and she said yes, it was. To cover her hurt she would just hurl back an equal or bigger insult and it would always escalate. Later they made up, but she often wondered if he’d really meant the things he said.
How sad. Words are a gift. They are to build up one another.
- Ephesians 5:4 says -“there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” I like how The Message explains this verse saying “Christians have better uses for language than that”
So what should our dialect be? Speaking in such a manner that the other’s response can only be good – they are left with nothing bad to say about us.
Three passages come to mind as good tests of what our words convey
- 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another.
- Titus 2:8, 9, and 15 In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, in order that the opponent may be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us– These things speak and exhort (encourage) and reprove (correct in such a way to put them back on the right path) with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (Speak these things in such a way that others will not disrespect you, and do not allow others to speak disrespectfully to you)
- I Corinthians 13 – Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth – Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always, Always looks for the best.
Who can you build up today? Who will hear your powerful words?