Today’s newsletter is not about speaking a language like Russian or Swahili or Tamil. It is about the language of love. My husband wrote this article for married couples, but the principles apply to conversations in our family, among our staff, and even with nationals. Our words are powerful.
How old were you when you learned to talk? Very verbal children might say their first words at 10 months. By age two you probably had a vocabulary of 100 to 200 words, and the ability to form simple sentences. So you might say that you’ve been saying words all your life. But the real question is, “What have those words done?” Sure, millions of them, even most of them, are gone and forgotten, having served their momentary purpose. Others, though, had profound and lasting consequences.
At the core of the biblical teaching about our words is the idea that they have power. The Bible has hundreds of verses referring to our speech, dozens in the book of Proverbs alone. At the core of the biblical teaching about our words is the idea that they have power . . . power to build or destroy; to bless or to curse; to heal or to wound; to instruct or to corrupt.
Imagine, you are five years old . It’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Suddenly you come running into the house, crying. You’re sobbing like someone hit you with a stick. “What’s wrong?” Mom asks. “They called me stupid!” you moan. Your mom may have repeated the conventional wisdom that your grandmother told her: “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can never hurt you.” Conventional, but so wrong.
We’ve all been hurt by words, and sometimes the effect lasts years. Proverbs 12:18 tells us that rash, reckless words pierce like a sword. As always, the Bible is realistic, not idealistic. It acknowledges the pain that broken people often inflict on each other, but also the healing that can happen when the right words are spoken from a loving heart.
The power of words is multiplied by the closeness of the relationship. Reason? For a close relationship to exist, there must be some unguarded openness. A stranger’s malignant words can sting, but the same words from a spouse, parent, sibling, or child, can drive a stake in our exposed hearts.
Thankfully, that is not the end of the story. If words can hurt, words can also heal. So the second part of the verse tells us that “the tongue of the wise brings healing.” A well-timed comment from a wise heart can encourage us in a way that will change both the outlook and the outcome of our lives. Wise words, spoken in love and re-enforced regularly, can actually heal wounded hearts, reversing the damage of years.
Positive words invigorate us.
Some time ago I called a woman who was a spiritual mother to me many years ago. We had been out of contact for a long time. As I told her of our life and ministry, she said ‘Mike, I am so proud of you.” Friends, that dear woman has known me since I was 16, and now I am 60. She saw me in the early, confused days of my spiritual development. To hear her express pride in what God has done in our lives means more, much more, than the passing compliment of a stranger. And when Diane- my wife, my lover, my friend- tells me she is honored to be my wife, those words invigorate me, making me want to be an even more honorable man in every way.
Good job, faithful servant
One day you will stand before God, and if you have done your best to live for him and his Kingdom, you will hear him say “Good job, faithful servant. Share my Father’s joy forever.” But until that day, let the encouraging, healing words of the Father’s heart flow from your heart to your husband.
Here are some strategies. When you hear a word that encourages you, acknowledge it. When you say words that wound, withdraw them quickly before they eat away at your spouse’s soul. Tell your mate you are sorry for those words, and confess that you said them in a moment of anger or frustration. If many hurting words have been spoken, declare a day when you will give yourselves a new beginning. Sure, you’ll probably still wound each other from time to time, but when you know you have, forgive.
One last action point, and this is a big one. The Bible tells us that words are the expressions of our hearts. It also tells us that God can make us new people, that he can change the composition of our souls, thereby changing the way we speak. That change begins in a moment, when we ask God to make us new. It continues as we renew our souls through reading and deeply considering the words of the Bible.
Let’s have marriages that bring healing and growth. Speaking healing, encouraging words will help make that happen. Then we will see the truth found in the words of this old song:
“Down in the human heart, crushed by the Tempter, Feelings lie buried that grace can restore. Touched by a loving hand, wakened by kindness, Chords that were broken can vibrate once more.”
A healthy, loving marriage births new music from healed hearts. So sing on, lovers! Awake the sleeping ambition! Call forth the buried talent! Soothe the fearful nerves! Glorify God!
Thanks to Mike Constantine for this encouragement!