Words matter in relationships.
What you say to your spouse, child, or friend can either tear them down or lift them up. Words can lead to intimacy, or they can lead to separation. Sarcasm and criticism can cut deep and create bitterness, whereas words of peace and encouragement, both expressions of Christ-like love, can drive relationships forward and ultimately help mend wounds. We must choose our words wisely.
Biologically speaking, the tongue has often been referred to as “the strongest organ in the human body.” While that statement is not scientifically accurate, the tongue IS a very strong organ, consisting of eight separate muscles. Citation
The Bible likens the tongue to a bit in a horse’s mouth, a rudder on a ship, and a spark that starts a forest fire. (James 3) In other words, despite its small size, the tongue wields great power— power for good or power for evil. James says, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” (James 3:10).
HOW we communicate our words are equally as powerful. Sometimes our communicated messages may be misinterpreted by the receiver. You may think you’re communicating one thing, but your spouse, child, or friend hears something entirely different. Messages and signals get crossed. Feelings get hurt or expectations go unmet. Bitterness and resentment soon follow.
So, here’s the burning question— HOW do we communicate?
The Bible has clear instructions about how we are to speak with one another:
- Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs. (Ephesians 4:29)
- Let your conversations be always full of grace, seasoned with salt. (Colossians 4:6)
- God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. (1 Peter 5:5)
- Let every person be quick to hear and slow to speak. (James 1:19)
As a parent, I am continually encouraging my children to “think before you speak.” To ask themselves, “the words that I’m about to say… will they help or hurt?”
Let’s be honest, I have to remind myself to do the same. And, to be even more honest, I often have to back-peddle and ask for forgiveness for words which I have expressed— words that were not properly filtered through Jesus’s lens first.
We are all flawed human beings. As sinners, we all make mistakes. At one time or another, and maybe many times over, we have all hurt someone’s feelings, whether intentionally or un-intentionally.
But take heart! God wants us to become more and more like Jesus. And each day is a new day to strive to speak like Jesus. To listen like Jesus. To love like Jesus.
How does Jesus love?
- But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)
- Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. […] It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Before you speak, ask yourself:
- Is my comment edifying or hurtful?
- Is my sarcasm necessary?
- Is my response for their benefit or for my own benefit?
- Am I spreading gossip?
- Am I being truthful?
- Am I listening well?
- Am I validating their feelings and letting them know I care about them?
- Am I being mindful of my tone to make sure I sound calm and respectful?
- Do I need to wait and calm myself down before I respond?
- How would Jesus respond?
- What would Jesus say?
Remember the popular W.W.J.D. bracelets from the 1990’s? W.W.J.D. stands for “What Would Jesus Do?” I remember the days when Christian kids and teens (including myself) all over the country would sport the trendy bracelets to help remind us to be more like Jesus.
I think we need to bring those bracelets back in style! Do you agree? Maybe they can help us— and a whole new generation— tame our tongues and guide our actions.
Speaking of “tongues,” here’s another acronym for you to try… P.B.J. Peanut butter and jelly? Not quite. I taught this acronym to my children a few years ago. We didn’t stick with it, unfortunately, but I still think it’s a good one, and I may try to bring it back around.
P.B.J. stands for “Pause. Breathe. Jesus.”
The next time your children are arguing or fighting, give them the cue word, “P.B.J.” It is a gentle reminder for them to:
PAUSE— to stop the arguing and take a step back.
BREATHE— to take a deep breath and calm down.
JESUS— to ask themselves, “What would Jesus do? How would Jesus respond?”
My husband and I have a “code word” with each other for when either of us think we might be raising our voice too much with the kids or when we need help “taming the tongue” in general. It’s discreet and private, known only between the two of us. We just quietly mouth it to each other, and we’re able to adjust our words and attitude without overtly “calling each other out” in front of the kids.
Maybe you can come up with your own “code word” with your spouse or with your kids. If you need a starter one, you’re welcome to use P.B.J.
Feeding on the Word
Is all this talk of P.B.J. making you hungry? Are you craving a snack? Good! Because it brings me to my final point…
If we want our words and actions to reflect Jesus, we must also feed on Jesus and His Word. Good things in, good things out. Jesus said, “man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God,” and “the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (Matthew 4:4; John 4:14).
God’s Word is not a restrictive diet. I believe God intended for His Word to be an all-access buffet. With free refills! And super-size portions!
When you fill your life with God’s wisdom and goodness, it’ll naturally pour back out to others. He has set the table, laid out the courses, and invited you to join Him. The invitation is free, and He accepts you as you are— no dress code required— but you have to be willing to join Him at the table and leave your own food choices behind.
I leave you with a closing message from the Apostle Paul:
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. […] Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature. […] You must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. […] Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with one another and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.” (Colossians 3)
I’d love to hear from you! What are some ways that YOU use to remind yourself to tame your tongue or to act like Jesus? What are some ideas you have taught your children? Comment below!