This is a guest post by Heather Teis.
Right now, I’m taking a break from the midst of scrubbing spots out of outgrown children’s clothes, shining old dress shoes, polishing old toys, steaming and ironing outfits, and pricing and tagging aforementioned items. What am I doing??? Why am I aspiring to be Proverbs 31. Whew! Virtuous Girlfriend gives a lot to live up to!
I participate in a consignment sale in our area about every other year. It’s a weekend sale, and it’s so exciting to check online every night to see how much money I’ve made on what my man would have just discarded. I often shop this sale, too. Now, I have to put out this disclaimer, unlike many of my frugal friends, I am a terrible thrift shopper. Even in the grocery stores, I buy a lot of generics, but there is no real substitute for Hershey’s, is there? But this consignment sale is different. It is clean, organized, and there are some great deals. Each item is priced by other moms – some of who, apparently, just want to clear out their closets, because their stuff is way under-priced!
But the one drawback is that there is a stiff no return policy. Now this creates a problem for me, because I am the Queen of Returns. I delight in taking things back and trading them in for other things…this is my bliss. But I shop at this sale very differently than I shop at department stores. I cannot tell you the time I spend once I have treaded through the merchandise, the other moms, and yes, even some dads, with my treasures. I always do the same thing, I find a quieter spot. I sit and I go over every item with a meticulous eye. Are there stains? Will this fit my child? Is the size true? Will they have an occasion to wear this? Are the buttons all here? Does the zipper work? Is it worth what it will cost me? I want to be sure, you see, because there are no go-backs.
Sometimes, we spend our words like we’re at Walmart. If it doesn’t work, I’ll just take it back. If only that were the case.
“There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.” Prov. 12:18
Just a few weeks ago, a sister in Christ, who is strong in her walk with God, shared with tears in her eyes, the critical things that her mother has said to her throughout her life. Cruel remarks delivered with a smile, as if it were an act of motherly concern. The wounds have healed by this believer’s running to her Heavenly Father for the love her mother should have given. However, the scars remain.
Last year, when my husband preached on words, he invited those on Facebook to comment or message their thoughts. Oh my. More responses were given on this subject than any other we’ve seen. Remarks that were made years before, but still hung hauntingly in their memory. A solemn warning is given to the foolish woman in Proverbs. “Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.” Proverbs 14:1 Isn’t that convicting? It is the idea of just every day taking a little pinch here and a little pinch there until the relationship crumbles. Easy to do with words that are laced with disappointment or criticism.
So, what is the solution? Well, the flip side of that verse is the wise woman who builds up her house. There are so many verses about positive words and the wise use of them bringing life and uplifting the heart, that this blog could quickly turn into a book! So instead, let’s take a quick look at how we can change our words.
1. Don’t follow your heart (emotions)
Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that our hearts are tricky – they will lead us astray and away from the truth. Be careful about what you say when your emotional. We can say things that will live on with someone we love and can do real damage. Do your best to keep quiet and listen. Listen more than you speak. Separate yourself from the feelings.
I only take a certain amount of cash to this consignment sale…because I know that in the thrill of the moment, adrenaline is high as I’m trying to race to find that brand new Gymboree outfit at a crazy low price, before that other mom, or I can spend more than I ought. I’m learning that with my words, too.
Years ago, my mother taught me that in times of nervousness, I tend to talk non-stop. Her kind instruction has made me conscious in times of insecurity, to just be quiet and listen. Even in moments of fun and excitement, I can be “too much” with my words. It’s almost always better, especially in high emotion – fun or frustrating, to keep some of my remarks, laughingly witty or emotionally revealing, in my pocket.
“He that hath knowledge spareth his words; and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” Prov. 17:27-28
2. Realize that your words reveal your heart.
One of the reasons that words hurt is because we know that there is a “thread of truth” to them. Now, it may not be actual truth. I may not be the “worst pastors wife that you have ever met” and I may have never “been there for you,” but the thread of truth lies deep down, if you said it, you believed it, so the hurt comes with knowing that, to some perhaps lesser degree, your words were true to your heart and belief.
“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” Luke 6:45
You see, our words are not just words. They are truths…at least truths to us. Some of us are not as vocal with our words as others. We hold back. But instead of slinging our words like fiery arrows, we let them sear themselves in our minds. I’m Southern to the core. Part of that Southern Charm is smiling and sweet talking, even when I’m thinking nasty. Even though we may be quiet by nature, if we are holding onto harmful words that we wish we could say, but don’t want to deal with the aftermath of a situation, we still have a word problem. Because you see, it stems from what we are believing in our hearts.
3. Yield the change to the one who can make it.
“But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” James 3:8
Wow, harsh words. But no man (or woman) can control her (or his) tongue on their own. But there is one Who can. “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” (v.11)
No, a fountain will not have both bitter and sweet water. There was a water source that was bitter, but was miraculously transformed to sweet. (Ex. 15:22-25) The children of Israel were at the bitter waters of Marah, and God transformed their water to sweet water. Here, we see in verse 26 of that passage, that Yahweh is our God that heals us. He can heal a broken bitter tongue into one that pours out the sweetest thing of all, praise. Because the more we know and yield to Him, the more He changes our innermost perspectives of people, ministries, ourselves, and of course, our Creator. We see other believers, who are different, as a completion of His work instead of an irritant. When a sister or brother in Christ falls or is wrong in an area, we don’t spread the bitter waters, instead our words speak heartfelt prayers for them because we know we are but a footfall away from being there ourselves. When we feel disappointment with our spouse, we learn to get our expectation from God instead, and then our words change with our hearts. He is the healer.
Words can’t be exchanged or taken back, but they can be transformed. Let’s shop wisely.
How about you? Do you have a problem following your emotions instead of leading them? Have you ever been the victim of harsh words? Have you ever wished that you could “take back” something you’ve said?