Even so, the tongue is a little member, and boasts great things.
Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!
James had a healthy respect for speech, and its power to bless or destroy. That’s a power I’ve also gained a lot of respect for.
When working with couples over the years, I’ve heard more complaints about what a spouse said than what a spouse did. Sure, we can do some terrible things to each other, and actions can speak louder than words. But it’s so often the wrong words, not the wrong deeds, that have damaged a marriage – in some cases, even murdered it.
The more I think about that, the more I have to consider the power of the tongue, mine especially, others to a point. In fact, looking over the most painful parts of my own history, I’d say it’s words, not actions, that often inflict the long-term wounds.
Sticks and Stones Didn’t Do the Damage
I’ve been in fist fights that drew some blood, but remembering them hardly
But verbal cuts? Not so funny. Schoolyard taunts, adolescent name-calling, or sarcastic, cruel remarks from adults or peers going back 50 plus years can still evoke pain in me, and I find that to be the rule more than the exception with others.
Think about your own life for a moment. Isn’t it true that the words you’ve heard spoken to or at you, whether positive or negative, can still have impact? Powerful thing, that tongue.
Especially at home, the one place you should feel safe. When you walk through your door you should feel you’re entering a safety zone, the one location where you can rely on being valued, heard, nurtured.
So if there’s any one place husbands and wives should watch their mouths, it’s in their home. And if there’s any one place spouses are commonly guilty of verbal carelessness, it’s also in their home. Common, but not very smart, as Solomon said:
“It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling (spouse) and in a wide house.” (Proverbs 25:24)
I know, I changed it. In the original he said “with a brawling woman” but for the sake of this post let’s broaden it, because it wrong to suggest that shooting off one’s mouth is strictly a female problem. Plenty of men, after all, make their wives miserable with the wrongs words at the wrong time.
If you vowed to love, honor and cherish a person, your fidelity to that vow will show in your words. If it doesn’t, then you should consider to what extent you’re making life harder for the person you’re partnered with, who is, after all, the someone you should be making life better for.
Some Enlightening Homework
Here’s a 3-part assignment I like to give husbands and wives:
- Ask your spouse if the way you speak to him/her makes he/she feel valued by you.
- Ask why or why not.
- Ask what, if anything, could you say (or stop saying!) that would increase your partner’s confidence in your love and support.
Please try this out. Maybe you’ll get a straight-A report card as a response, and if so, you’re a champion spouse.
But maybe you’ll get an education instead, since many of us take for granted the right to vent, explode, pick at or verbally withdraw from our partners because we’re harboring unresolved anger, or because we’re just used to each other so we assume our spouse can absorb our mouthiness without any damage being done.
But trust me, if your tongue is wagging the wrong way, damage is being done. Unchecked, it will only get worse.
So ask for some feedback about your speech, take it to heart, and recommit to spouse-building, which is the job description of any married person.
I can take comfort in the fact I do (essentially) what a spouse is supposed to do. But I can’t afford to overlook the way I talk, because as Jesus
“For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” (Matthew 12:37)