Words can wound people deeply. Especially damaging are those comments we make that hurt those we love and yet we have no clue what we have done. The problem isn’t a lack of intelligence, but a lack of consideration and sensitivity. We have grown accustomed to just saying whatever comes to mind without considering how it might be received.
The Bible gives a vivid picture of how words can hurt people. It compares our words to a wooden stick that pummels someone….and leaves a bruise. But the bruise is not on the body, it is on the heart.
“In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride…” (Proverbs 14:3)
A proud man is selfish and foolish. He not only fails to consider others when he speaks, but he foolishly believes his words are received no matter how they are delivered. Pride, inconsideration, and a lack of sensitivity in our words is the equivalent of carrying around a walking stick and smacking people when we speak to them. But again, the hurt is not felt on the body, but on the heart of the one to whom you are speaking.
We always ought to speak the truth, but we are to be gracious in how we say it. God instructs us to “…speak the truth in love…”. (Ephesians 4:15) Someone wrote, “Love without truth is hypocrisy, but truth without love is brutality”. God is saying that it is wrong to speak without consideration and compassion.
I have known people that think it is a virtue to speak quickly, freely and honestly. Others don’t see it as a virtue, but as a liability. Their proneness to talk this way is perceived as harsh, rough, and rude. In their wake are people they have deeply hurt, even those they love the most. It is pride that blinds us to our lack of sensitivity and kindness.
Those that have grown up in a home where their parents just said the first thing that came to their minds often struggle with being inconsiderate in their words. Our words communicate precise meaning and we ought to be careful about how we use them.
No sane parent would ever hurt their child physically, but our words are like a “rod of pride” and leave bruised hearts, sometimes remembered for a lifetime. God wants us to learn to be gentle in our words rather than being abrasive and inconsiderate.
The Bible speaks about those that “answer roughly”. (Proverbs 18:23) This means a response that is “fierce”. It has the idea of words that are spoken with great force and power. I have never hit or abused my children or my wife, but I have given a rough response to them. Why? Because I was proud, inconsiderate, and insensitive.
I think authorities especially (parents, bosses, coaches, teachers) tend to do this because they assume that it gains quick results. And it may, for the short-term. However, in the process of doing so we lose far more than we gain.
We lose the respect of those we are responsible for leading. We lose the opportunity to have a close relationship with them. (People pull away from those that bully them verbally). And parents have the greatest loss – our sternness and inconsideration born of pride causes us to lose the hearts of our children.
Someone properly said, “God resists pride…and so do people”. It is difficult to endure rough words from anyone, but when they come from a parent or spouse, it is more than difficult. It is like getting whacked on the heart with a rod. We remember those licks for a long time. After a while we pull away from people like this because of the pain they inflict with their words.
Do not underestimate the power of the choice or tone of your words. It can serve you well to draw close to people or it can be the source of causing pain to others by verbally beating them.
Be considerate with your words and you will build and restore relationships. Inconsiderate words create distance between people.
“A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger”. (Proverbs 15:1)
A friend of mine told me a story which his pastor had shared with their church. One day the pastor stopped at a gas station for some fuel and was in a hurry to make an appointment. This was in the days when attendants came to the pump and cared for everything. All you did was tell him the amount of gasoline to put in and sit there while he did all the work and paid when the service was completed. (That seems like another lifetime, doesn’t it?!)
The service station attendant was slow coming to the car and puttered back to take the gas cap off. The pastor, aware of his looming appointment, spoke to the man, “Would you please hurry, I have an appointment and I’m going to be late?”
The worker never said a word and pumped the gas. As the pastor was waiting God began to speak to Him about his rudeness and abruptness with this man. He knew that he was wrong and should make it right with him.
After the attendant was finished he came to the car window to get the money and the pastor said, “Sir, I want to apologize to you for the way I spoke to you. It was very wrong of me and I shouldn’t have done it. I’m very sorry”.
The man was startled and for a moment just looked at the pastor. Finally, he said quietly, “That’s alright, Mister. People always talk to me like that”.
I wonder if our families have grown accustomed to our rudeness….our quickness to speak….our abruptness? I wonder if we have become accustomed to being rude, inconsiderate, and abrupt?
Years ago I had a thirty minute radio program early on Sunday mornings and I always closed it with the same refrain, “Remember…..be kind to everybody you meet, because everyone is having a tough time”. Good words for us to remember every day.