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Posts Tagged ‘words that wound’

They can slide off our lips before we know it, can’t they? Perhaps they are spoken in a flash of anger or irritation. Or perhaps they slip out in a thoughtless moment when our minds are elsewhere. Whatever the case, those reckless words we say can leave their mark for a very long time—as can those others have said to us.

Recently, I listened and watched, heart in mouth, as someone made a remark to another that was meant to be kind. Unfortunately, they had forgotten how much the other person hated such comments. A moment later, I watched the facial expressions of both parties change. One looked horrified and remorseful, as if they would give anything to take their words back, while the other looked more than a little exasperated and even angry. Immediately, I felt sorry for them both. I tried my best to smooth things over and change the topic of conversation, but was only partly successful. Those words had been said—the damage had been done.

Sometimes, however, we may speak to wound on purpose. I still remember clearly an occasion years ago when I spoke rashly in anger, unconcerned at how hurtful my words might be to the person they were aimed at. In that instant, all I wanted to do was lash out, determined to defend myself and get my point across. Later, I regretted it, although my opinion on the matter under discussion did not change. I apologised—and so did the other person. But ground was lost in the process. And, sadly, there was little opportunity afterwards for that relationship to be restored and for trust to be established again.

No wonder then that the following words resonated with me when I read them last week:

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18

I long for the words that roll off my tongue to bring healing rather than piercing pain to others, don’t you? Of course, at times, we need to speak firmly and with passion, to stand up for what is right and not let things slide because we lack the courage to confront. In those instances, it will hopefully be righteous anger and the desire for God’s justice to rule that motivate us to speak out. But at all times, our end goal needs to be restoration and healing—for others and for ourselves.

Then further on in the same chapter, I came across the following:

An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up. Proverbs 12:25

We are often unaware what others are going through, aren’t we, or what is driving them to act the way they do? At times we can see anxiety written on a person’s face or obvious in how they speak and act. Yet many of us are adept at burying such emotions well below the surface where others will not notice. How important it is then to endeavour to speak kindly, because those few words from us can lighten another’s load in ways we might never know or could ever imagine.

Be kind and compassionate to one another … Ephesians 4:32

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 1 Corinthians 13:4

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Whenever awards such as the Australian of the Year are announced on TV on Australia Day or whenever the Queen’s birthday honours list is made public, they are often greeted with a tongue-in-cheek lament in our family.

‘Oh, dear! Looks like they forgot me again,’ I sigh. ‘Ah well! I’ll just have to wait until next year.’

While many worthy people are honoured in this way, most of us will not end up among their ranks—and that’s okay. We all can’t make it there, and some people have done extraordinary things in their lives that deserve our applause. Yet I believe all of us desire in our hearts to be honoured and respected as part of our everyday lives and it seems that’s how God wants us to treat others, too. In Romas 12:10, we read:

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves.

Years ago, I facilitated a course in our church in which one session was entitled ‘The Shame Game’. At first, I wondered how relevant this session would be for those taking part, but quickly changed my mind. It soon became obvious that many, including me, knew very well those feelings of shame, not so much because of anything we had done, but of who we intrinsically were. Whatever negative messages we had taken on board when we were younger had stuck. Even if these messages were unintentional, that did not make them any less effective. Some group members had been physically and emotionally abused, causing them to feel completely devalued and unworthy of being loved. For others, it was often some throw-away line, spoken out of anger or jealousy or even simply without thinking, that had cut deep. These beliefs had affected our behaviour in various ways—and we knew we needed God’s help to change and become more whole.

I wonder if you relate to this sense of shame many of us seem to carry? Perhaps, like me, you have found that some things more than others tap into such feelings and catch us by surprise. For example, recently I saw another author’s book strongly criticised in an online review and I felt immediate empathy for her. We both know that authors having different writing styles and that no one author is going to please everyone with his or her work. Yet it hurts when one of our ‘babies’ seems to be criticised unfairly or devalued in some way. When this happens, that old sense of shame is often not far away. Perhaps that’s why it’s said that authors need to have a very sensitive spirit but also the hide of an elephant!

Yet I’ve discovered I need more than that in my own writing journey. I’ve found I need to base my sense of honour and self-worth not on some passing writing success but on where I stand in God’s eyes. I need to remember the grace, mercy and forgiveness extended to me in love and that in God, I have been given a safe place to stand where I can hold my head high, whatever happens in life. This week, I came across the following words in Psalm 61:7:

My salvation and my honour depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

Amen and amen!

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