Weighing Your Words

Day 12 in Proverbs 

Proverbs 12: 16-20 “Losing your temper is foolish; ignoring an insult is smart.  An honest person tells the truth in court, but a dishonest person tells nothing but lies.  Sharp words cut like a sword, but words of wisdom heal.  Truth will last forever; lies are soon found out.  An evil mind is deceitful, but gentle thoughts bring happiness.”

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One of the things I admire about a lot of the men that I know is that they rarely recognize a well-veiled insult.  (OK…sometimes I sneer at them because of it, too!  “How did you miss that?”)  They’ll catch them if they are blatant and usually deal with them on the spot, but if there is any innuendo, they usually don’t even notice it occurred.

One of the things I have in common with many of my women friends is that we almost always notice it. If we respond it is usually in a passive aggressive fashion.  Or we take it in, file it in our brain, take it out on occasion and play with it (in other words, keep turning it over in our brain so we build up more anger points), but seldom let it go.  The resentment builds….but we never let on.  At least on the surface.  It does come out in other ways….for example, a lifetime sentence of resentment against the person who made the careless comment in the first place.  Or well placed nasty comments that retaliate….and make us worse than the one who made the comment in the first place.

I used to agonize about these insults for long periods of time.  Sometimes I would lash back, but more often than not I would just hold it inside and hurt.  I’m slowly learning to let it all go, though.  I’ve decided that it causes me far more pain to notice, so I choose not to.  And believe it or not, you can choose not to!  If necessary, I just tell myself that if they really wanted to insult me, they would be more overt….in other words, I think they are a really bad insulter.  (If you are going to insult someone, you should do it well.)  Usually, though, I prefer to just be blissfully ignorant. 

Because I love words, I have exercised my abilities over the years.  I have developed verbal muscles/skill.  I can be deadly with an insult.  That verse about the sharp words cutting like a sword….yep, I can be deft, accurate, true and let the blade get to the exact right point of sensitivity.  You really get to exercise this sort of thing if you grow up in a family of readers….you are verbal people.  My siblings can all do it, so we had to be both offensive and defensive in any verbal confrontation when we were growing up.  Our verbal wars were probably way more impressive than our physical wars (though my brother Scott being able to pick me up and twirl me around his head like a professional wrestler when we were college age…. that was probably pretty impressive.)   My siblings and I like each other as adults and if we disagree it is usually with humor…..so the verbal wars are now purely for entertainment purposes these days.  Each one of them is very skilled at it in their own way…..and generally it is purely to make each other laugh.

I don’t remember many physical confrontations in my life, though I am sure there have been some.  I don’t remember details of many games I have played, be it a win or loss.  But I can still remember unkind words from years and years ago.

I remember one of my friends telling me that when she was growing up her family didn’t usually attend church.  Someone invited her to go to Sunday School with them and she started attending every Sunday.  One Sunday she overheard a conversation between a couple of the ladies in the church, where they were saying unkind things about her.  Saying unkind things about a child…in church, nonetheless.  Yep, really.  She never went back…..and held resentment about churches and people who attend church well into adulthood.  A place that should have embraced this precious girl, and made her feel loved and accepted just as she was, became in her mind a place full of mean people.  Who can blame her for feeling that way…or for not wanting to be a part of anything associated with this sort of people?  (I wouldn’t want to be around them either.  Still don’t.)

I guess sometimes we strike out at other people to make ourselves feel better, but the truth is that it never really works for the long term.  It may make you feel better for a minute, but really you just darken your soul a bit more, something which is so subtle to us that we usually don’t detect it when it is happening.  And Satan smiles.  Internally that makes us miserable.  Unless we are Satan’s friend.

While I remember the unkind words, I also remember the kindnesses that have been spoken to me.  There are some people in my life that are just a refreshment…..a few minutes with them and I feel at peace, encouraged and powerful.  I remember who I am….and am filled with hope of what I can be.  They are the cheerleaders…..the people who want you to be your best and are not threatened if you are.  They are generous in their praise…..and truthful in it.  (By the way, I often see people who praise people a lot, but they are not truthful.  That is meaningless and cheap praise….and while it may lift a person’s spirits temporarily, it can be hurtful to them for the long term and is just plain wrong.)  They look for the good in other people…..and bring it to everyone’s attention.  You’re on the same team…..and very aware and very much in awe of the gifts of each other.  Not threatened, but excited and inspired by what is going on in each other’s life. That’s true friendship and it is a beautiful thing.  It makes God smile.

Our mouth is a powerful weapon.  It can crush hearts……or it can lift them.  It’s your choice.   Whether we choose our words carefully, or whether we don’t think about them at all, they still impact people’s lives.  They can build up or they can tear down.  How you use your words, says a lot about who you are…..who you choose to be.   You can use angry words (I once heard that anger is fear in disguise), you can use kind words, you can speak truth, you can speak lies, you can talk with evil intent or with gentleness.  What you say tells those who listen carefully where your heart and your mind reside.  And in many ways, they sow the seeds your life will reap. 

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