Careful Words

“… a careless word is like the thorn of the honey locust thorn tree – it can cause a deep wound that can lead to the ‘infection’ of bitterness…” – Wally Armstrong, Practicing the Presence of Jesus

“All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God forgave you in Christ.” – Eph. 4:31-32

I have been on the receiving end of bitterness, anger, slander – spiteful words. I am quite certain we all have. As a young person, these words damaged me to my core. Thankfully, I have healed from these wounds and walk free from their pain. As an adult and a believer, I have felt mostly compassion and sorrow for the unbelievers who rage against me or my worldview. I cannot expect those who do not understand me or my views to accept them, and their opinions do not injure me.image

 

However, there is one party from whom careless words continue to hurt – fellow believers. While there is not typically shouting involved, or even discernible anger, careless words from believers can cut a person’s confidence, self-worth, and spirit. They can cause a person to question his/her calling or even leave the church. This pain has not been my experience alone, but the story of many people I have walked with over the years. Careless words lead to a wound of offense, which can easily become bitterness. Tragically, I have seen many walk away from friendships, from churches, and even from the faith, over offenses rooted in careless words.

I am talking about hastily delivered criticisms.

I am talking about sarcasm;

about gossip;

about jesting;

about snarky side commentary;

about words said out of earshot,

because they weren’t really out of earshot. These things have a way of getting around.

I am talking to myself. I used to pride myself on my sarcastic humor. You know what sarcasm means? To tear the flesh. And I gloried in it. Now my six year old son calls me out on it, and I realize my foolishness.

Careless words break trust. As believers, we should be covenanted to one another, preferring one another in love, anxious to honor each other.

“But I’m speaking the truth in love!”

Is it in love? Is it patient and kind? Is it rude or self-seeking? Does it always protect and always trust?

“People are too easily offended! That is their problem!”

We have a responsibility to forgive offense, yes. We have an equal responsibility to guard our words, to be slow to speak. The Bible charges us to use our words to encourage, heal, and extend grace.

If we find that offense tends to follow us, perhaps we are the problem.

If I am to dwell in unity with my brothers and sisters in Christ, I must carry slow to speak and quick to forgive in equal measurings like offerings. Then I can give in trust the words of grace which build and heal.

 

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30 Days to 30, Day 8

Day 8 – I Will Control My Thought Life

I listened to a lesson on freedom today by my pastor, one I’d heard before and through which I was preparing to lead a small group.  The lesson centered on renewing the mind.  In summary, one of the main points was that our thoughts determine our emotions, our emotions determine our attitudes, and our attitudes determine our actions.  Therefore, the negative things that come from me are rooted in my thoughts.  I can control my thinking by taking captive every negative or sinful thought and submitting it to Christ, nullifying it with the truth in the Word of God.

My apologies if you weren’t expecting a sermon.  There is no separating me from my faith.  It is who I am, and it’s going to come out.

Now, I am an introvert by nature and one with an above average IQ.  Trust me that I am not bragging there.  The combination of the two makes for a fairly distracting internal world, and I tend to be very socially awkward and unaware of my surroundings because the buzzing of analysis and synthesis in my brain overwhelms my ability to engage in the moment.  The relevancy then is that my thought life can quickly and powerfully leap from normal and balanced to detrimentally askew.  Negative thoughts create fear, anger, worry.  Those emotions stimulate an attitude of hopelessness and anxiety.  It is usually right before those attitudes turn into actions that I re-secure the reins of my life and begin the process of getting the horse back on trail.

What would happen if I could consistently stop it at the thought-level?

Thirty makes me realize I am too old to play games with my bad emotions and attitudes.  I am too old to be sunk every time my mind takes a situation or word the wrong direction. And, I know I want to kill the habit of being controlled by my thoughts before I get too old. I know what God says about His people, and I am graced enough to claim it for myself.