“You use your words to cut down, you know that?!”
His words stung but I knew there was truth in them.
Not in front of him. But when he left.
I poured out my aching heart to God, telling him how angry I was, how hurt and confused I was and how much I didn’t want to do this anymore.
There is always a release in telling God about the painful things, the things that make me so mad I think that I’m going to do something terrible. Oh, yeah, I struggle with anger. A lot of anger. It goes away for long periods of time but then it comes back when I’m weary, and I loathe myself for it.
When I’m angry, I let my words spill out, raw, unfiltered. I want to hurt him as much as he has hurt me. For him to feel the pain that I’m feeling because, clearly, he doesn’t care that he hurt me.
I know it’s wrong. In the moment, I want to stop, but I’m so hurt and so upset and I just have to let him know how I’m feeling.
When all is said, I feel remorseful and frequently apologize, but the damage is already there, the words already said, like too much toothpaste on your toothbrush, all that’s left to do is wash some down the drain or have a painfully minty mouthful of toothpaste suds. And that’s how it is. He sits there with his head too full of my painful words, he doesn’t wash them down the drain, even though he makes me think that he has. And they simmer and feed the voices in his mind that tell him he’s a failure.
I’m sick of the cycle, sick of the guilt and the feeling of being a horrible wife. I’m sick of the anger that flares up, the words that come out.
I talked to my sister and cousin about us as children and I will never forget, my cousin said “you were scary!” about the words I spoke, I could always win a verbal fight. But what good is that when you walk away from it with a rift.
Words are the most powerful tool we have.
They can make you fly or they can cut you to your core. Words inspire or deflate your hopes and dreams. One moment you can be so excited about something, but one negative word from someone will pop your bubble.
I still remember things that people said about me when I was a preteen that caused terrible insecurities for years. It seems easier to remember the negative than the positive things that people say.
In James he talks a lot about the tongue and the words that we say,
“ …the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.” – James 3:5-6 NLT
We are allowing ourselves to entertain sin
by using our words in this way.
Oof. It is set on fire by hell itself. That is a verse to take to heart. When we use our words to hurt, we are allowing Satan to accomplish his agenda to divide and tear relationships and homes apart. We are allowing ourselves to entertain sin by using our words in this way.
Why should I bother controlling my words?
We Will Give Account For Every Word
The words we speak are not only remembered by the people that we speak to, but they are written down and we will give account in eternity for every careless word that we speak. (Matthew 12:36) If that isn’t reason enough in itself to choose your words carefully.
Our words can be lifegiving
“A person’s words can be life-giving water; Words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook.” -Proverbs 18:4 NLT
It is incredibly important that we use our words to build others up, whether we are giving constructive criticism, or we are giving a genuine compliment. It’s better to say nothing if you have nothing kind to say and never speak in anger.
Words give life and words take life away. There is so much power in our words that I don’t think we even realize. It is incredibly important that we use our words to build others up, whether we are giving constructive criticism, or we are giving a genuine compliment. It’s better to say nothing if you have nothing kind to say and never speak in anger.
How to use your words for good?
A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands. -Proverbs 14:1
So how do we build our house?
It’s All in Your Head
No, really, our mind has powerful influence over our life. The thoughts that we meditate on are the thoughts that we both will believe and allow to shape us and our words and actions towards others. Controlling your tongue, really starts in your thought life.
Positive vs Negative Statements
Instead of looking for the bad or constantly pointing out the bad, if you look for the positive things that people are doing, often, it will seem as if they are more positive, you will dwell on those things, talk to them of those things and they will feel encouraged. Likewise if you think of the negative, you will dwell on those, they will seem very negative and they will feel like they can never measure up.
Use Your Words to Build Others Up
Positive comments do not make up for or cancel out negative comments, but we are human, our mindset should not be that we can give a negative comment if we have first given several positive, but to consistently use more positive and less negative. If we make a conscious effort to say more uplifting words than negative, we should have to think about it less and less as it becomes a habit, like second nature.
For every negative comment that you make, you should make at least 5 positive comments. It seems easier to give out negative comments, so this will take conscious effort, if you need ideas of positive things to say to the people in your life, grab a copy of my FREE E-book – Words of Life at the bottom of this post.
If You Have Nothing Kind to Say, Say Nothing at All
Do you remember being told this? It is wise advice that we should still heed. If you have nothing kind to say, it is better to say nothing than to say something unkind. You will rarely regret saying nothing, but you will almost always regret unkind words.
Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut they seem intelligent. Proverbs 17:28
The mouths of fools are their ruin; they trap themselves with their lips. Proverbs 18:7
Next time you see someone needing to improve in an area, instead of tearing them down, try to put it in a positive light. Instead of calling attention to their area of lacking, paint an image of where they could be and what it would take to get there.
Instead of’ “You are such a slob, why do you always have to leave your clothes on the floor.” try “I want to keep our home clean and orderly, do you think you could help me with this goal by putting your dirty clothes straight in the hamper when you take them off?”
Using Your Words Truthfully
Words that are not honest words can hurt just as bad as unkind words. People want to be affirmed, not flattered. People want to hear the truth, in a kind way. There are exceptions to those statements but as a rule, honesty is the best policy.
This is not to say that you have to agree “Yes, that dress makes you look fat.” when your friend asks, but you could say “well, I really like your purple dress better, it makes you look super slim.”
Choosing your words and compliments carefully allows people to trust you and feel good when you do compliment them because your compliments are genuine and not full of flattery.
There is a time and a place for criticism. But if you are to criticize, use constructive criticism. It is important to point out several things that the person is doing well, or that you appreciate about them, before carefully and kindly pointing out an area that they could grow in.
Criticism is hard to take no matter how kindly put and should be used sparingly.
Attack Problems Not People
I struggle with attacking people especially when I’m mad. But that doesn’t get me anywhere at all. It just puts up guards, hurts people and starts a fight.
You can confront a problem without tearing the person’s character apart. This is one of the most important things to remember with confrontation and conflict, to attack the problem not the person.
Attack the problem not the person!
Instead of accusingly yelling “You’re so lazy! I have to do everything myself!” try, “I’m feeling pretty worn out, do you think you could help me with the dishes?” or “I feel overwhelmed by all the housework, could you choose a couple jobs to stay on top of?”
Taming Your Tongue
James says that the tongue is “like a wild animal that can’t be tamed.” So what are you to do? If your tongue is bent on evil, how can you control it?
With a heart that is surrendered and a mind that is subject to Christ.
It all starts in your heart and mind. By disciplining yourself and choosing your thoughts carefully, dwelling on God’s word, choosing forgiveness. Each of these will help you to tame your tongue.
Take Every Thought Captive
Do not allow yourself to meditate on unkind words or wrongs done to you.
As I mentioned earlier, your mind has a powerful influence over you and it is so important to keep it in check. Do not allow yourself to meditate on unkind words or wrongs done to you. Do not allow yourself to seethe in anger or ponder revenge.
Take every thought captive as it enters your mind, give it to God. When there are thoughts that will turn to bitterness and destruction, refuse to let them enter in, turn them back to God.
Your mind is the gateway to your soul and everything that you let in will affect you in some way.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Philippians 4:8 NLT
Guard Your Heart
When someone speaks unkindly to you, or when an ungodly idea creeps in; CUT IT OFF!
Do not allow other people’s unkindness or crassness to influence you. You are accountable for your own actions and your actions will be affected, not only by the thoughts you allow into your mind, but the beliefs that you allow to take root in your heart. Your core beliefs will influence every decision you make.
Your actions will be affected by the thoughts that you allow into your mind and the beliefs that you allow to take root in your heart.
Forgive Quickly and Often
When Peter asked how many times he had to forgive his brother and threw out 7 times, thinking he was being generous, Jesus came back with 70 times 7.
I can just hear Peter “Whoa, Jesus, but I’m not gonna be able to keep track of 490 offenses, I’d loose count!” Exactly the point Peter!
Forgiveness should not be mistaken for passiveness or enabling sin. It does not mean that you tolerate sin, it means that you have let go of the offense against you. Forgiving others their trespasses as He forgives us.
Forgiveness does not mean tolerating sin. It is not holding onto the offenses committed against you.
Why should we forgive? Well, the most important reason that I know is that God can’t forgive us when we are holding grudges against others. I sure want God’s forgiveness, other’s offenses seems small next to mine against God.
If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. -Matthew 6:14 NLT
I recently asked for something in prayer and did not feel like there was an answer, I was convicted about something I felt was between God and me, but when I repented I didn’t feel forgiven.
Finally I realized that I had someone to forgive and when I gave that to God, I was free and my prayer was answered!
Though it was such a small moment, it had a big impact on my thoughts about forgiveness.
Bitterness will destroy you, so don’t let it get that far. Forgive quickly and often.
Forgive quickly and often.
Meditate on God’s Word
Probably the most effective way to tame the tongue is to meditate on God’s word. When we take our thoughts captive and guard our heart, and then fill those spaces with God’s word and scriptures, He can use it to transform our hearts and minds. Saturated in Jesus, it will be easier to use our words to build and love rather than for destruction and unkindness.
Saturated in Jesus, it will be easier to use our words to build and love rather than for destruction and unkindness.
Don’t just wait to lose your cool and then repent. Make a plan, prevent the sin, find out what triggers you and ask God to help you control your tongue!
Make a Game Plan
What situations trigger unkind words for you? Who do you struggle most with? For me its my husband when I’m irritated with him.
Make a plan for what you will do, how you will avoid those situations and what action you will take if you find yourself in them.
Prevent it Before it Starts
If you feel yourself getting angry or those words are itching to pop out of your mouth. Take a deep breath, physically cover your mouth if you have to and walk away.
Give the thoughts to God. Tell the person that you will continue the conversation later, or that you need time to think about it before you discuss it. This way you will have time to think it through rationally and prepare what you will say instead of going on rash feelings.
It’s Not too Late to Stop
If you have started to say something unkind, or you are in the middle of an argument and you make an unkind statement. It is too late to take those words back but it is not too late to stop other unkind words from spilling out.
Take a deep breath, go to another room, take a walk, end the phone conversation (don’t just hang up!). Whatever it takes to calm down.
When you are angry it is hard to be reasonable, if it’s too hard to be kind, wait to have the conversation until you are feeling calmer.
Be Accountable to Someone You Trust
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. -James 5:16 NLT
James says to confess our sins to one another. When you are trying to cut a habit or make a big change, accountability makes it much easier.
Find someone who is willing to be involved and not afraid to keep you accountable for your words. Be honest with them. Set up a weekly time to talk about it, ask them to pray for you and choose someone that will offer encouragement and wisdom on your journey.
Set Goals for Yourself
Don’t just dwell on the negative, think about the positive. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. A goal of “I want to quit using my words unkindly,” is great, but even better would be “I want to use my words to build.” It’s hard to remain in a neutral place where you’re not really saying anything, it’s easier to replace unkindness with kindness.
If we just leave the spaces blank, they’re going to fill with something. Fill your mind with positive godliness.
What If I Have Already Messed up?
Now you apologize, genuinely apologize. Tell them that you are sorry, it was wrong and ask forgiveness. Ask how you can make it better or what you could do differently next time.
This won’t fix what’s already done, but you can only go forwards at this point. If they need time and space to recover, give it to them. Also, remember that repentance is changing your course of action, to turn from something.
If you apologize but never change, it will mean nothing.
Ask God to Change You
Everything is possible with help from Christ. Do not be discouraged, turn to Him and ask for His help. It might feel imposible to change, to ever get your words under control. Every time that you use them unkindly and feel that regret and guilt, the harder you try, the harder you fail.
Give it to God.
With God’s help, you can be transformed.
Choosing to build with our words rather than to tear down takes constant conscious effort and though it seems like a lot of work to begin with, the more we do it, the more second nature it will become.
Don’t be discouraged, don’t give up.
Surround yourself with people who speak words of life, fill your mind with God’s word and don’t forget to depend on him!
If you don’t know where to start or what to say, grab a copy of my E-book Lifegiving Phrases here. There’s even a little extra gift inside! FREE printable wall art with some of my favorite verses and quotes on words!
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