Monday, October 11, 2010

Sticks and Stones

Whoever made up that little verse about stick and stones was trying to deny the truth. Words hurt. Sometimes I wonder if they hurt even more than physical pain but being a huge wuss, I don’t really want to test my theory. It seems like as a female, I have known how to use words like knife or a snake or a lightning bolt since I was very young. Perfected in junior high. Mastered as an adult.

This is a really tough topic for me because it’s a huge battleground in my life. It has been for a very long time. In the last few months, God has been doing a big work in my heart on it though. It’s a bummer that the growth has come through pain as it usually does.

Some of this came to light in my heart last week. In one week there were several different situations involving people being talked about in negative, unflattering, unloving ways. Two of which are my sisters in Christ and my friends. One person I don’t know. And the last one was me. In every case, some of it was true. Not all of it. It was not beneficial, uplifting or loving. And guess what? It hurts. Words hurt. It’s not just a juicy morsel of information, this is a person’s life we are talking about.

So God was gracious enough to weave these situations together for me. Maybe I would have been quick to join in a year ago or think they were getting what they deserved. But placed across the backdrop of how I have felt, all I wanted to do was throw up. I hurt for other people. I have no desire to hurt anyone that way. Ever.

I have no desire to set that kind of example for my kids. I don’t want them to see me using my mouth for anything but Godly purposes. You know how it is said of some people, “they never said a negative word about anyone.” That could never be said about me. I also don’t want to have hateful thoughts in my heart, or only say mean things when the person “really deserves it”. So although this is a topic I’d prefer to avoid, I can’t. Here are the things God is teaching me.

I think we all know that spreading lies is wrong. That’s gossip. Gossip generally involves talk about the personal, intimate happenings in someone’s life. If you happen to think gossip is not big deal, think again. It’s listed along with some things that are a pretty big deal. Check out this list in Romans 1:28-30:

Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;

Or when I want to hold on to the fact that I am a “religious” person and go to church, this verse is right there to slap me in the face.

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. James 1:26

But I think being Godly with our words goes beyond that including: negative talk, things that are not my business or things that although true, are intended for harm. This is the verse that sums it up best to me.

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

Why am I so quick to use my tongue to cut someone down? It’s a bigger problem than just our mouths. The tongue speaks what is in the heart. So it starts there. What’s in my heart? Well, there are still a lot of scary places there that God is working on. I have been doing a lot of this prayer: Lord, take those feelings of hate, jealousy, irritation, frustration and replace them with your love. Because if I want to speak in loving and uplifting ways, my heart needs to be loving.

There are some other things that I need to work on.

I need accountability from my friends. Maybe a conversation about stopping each other when the conversation is headed in a negative direction, cutting each other off when necessary.

I may need to back off some relationships that are lethal if I can't stop it and continue to fall to it. You know how there are just some people that is all you do with?

I need to remember that my purpose here is to glorify God and love Him. Before I say something or type something, maybe I could ask if my words will bring Him glory.

I need to speak up to stop it when I can. That is easier said than done.

I may need to consider backing off the social networking. Sometimes the things I read there just are not fuel for edifying, God-glorifying talk. That's a tough one, but it continues to challenge me.

I need to have humility and gentleness in my responses. Especially when it’s me that is hurt. Because even though it stinks, I don’t think I should act as though I never would have done or said anything like that. That’s just laughable. So maybe I could offer some grace and forgiveness.

There’s another especially dangerous facet to this topic. That is gossiping under the guise of a “prayer request”. It seems like an easy way out to spill the details on someone’s life and cover it by saying “so just be praying for them.”

We all need to search our hearts. Where’s the line between venting, sharing and gossip? A lot of times when I look deep down at my intentions they are not right. Is that information I have been given permission to share? If they were standing there, would I still be comfortable saying it? Am I doing it with the right motives?

I have screwed this up so many times but through Christ I know He can give me the power to change. And in Christ, there is forgiveness. I don’t need to continue to beat myself up. I can just take a big dose of humility and ask for forgiveness, trusting Christ for the future.

This is our “bathroom verse” for right now. It’s a verse I hang by the mirror in the bathroom so everyone will read it a lot. I think it sums things up pretty well.

“Be completely humble and gentle. Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2

If I could be humble and gentle and do things in love, my mouth would be an outpouring of the same.

Proverbs 12:18

Reckless words pierce like a sword,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 15:4

The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life,
but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.


Sarah, Nathen, Aiden, and Evan said...

Wonderfully put,I appreciate your honesty, and I too struggle with those same issues and am always in continued pursuit to live more Godly. thank you so much for your insights.

In God's Love,

Peter and Nancy said...

Even when I'm good at censoring my words, I have the same problem of having judgement and anger in my heart. And I hate it most of all when my words or my tone tell my kids that they're too slow, too dumb, too whatever -- of course I would never use those words out loud, but I'm sure my exasperated tone says it loud and clear. Ugh.

I've sometimes wondered if you feel like you're in a fishbowl as a pastor's wife. I feel like that sometimes, although my husband isn't the head pastor of our church. I've certainly heard criticism about him sometimes . . . ouch. Feel free to e-mail if you ever want to talk about stuff like that:

Amanda said...

Found you thru blogfrog. This post was especially encouraging to me, as I had an event this week that literally brought me to my knees...God was gracious and I was broken. I literally despise this sin of gossip and the Word so aptly describes gossip as "choice morsels..."
Thank goodness for the grace and mercy of Jesus. Thanks for sharing this post.