How often do we drive nails into the emotional flesh of our loved ones? Sometimes it occurs from carelessness, a thoughtless word that hurts their esteem. But more often, it happens when we allow ourselves to become upset. In anger, we lash out and nail them to the wall.
If I'm brutally honest, I don't just carry a hammer in my tool belt. I have a nail gun, as well. With it I can rapid fire nails at high speeds. It's what I instinctively grab to return fire when a loved one wounds me with a nail of their own. Even before my brain has processed the emotion, my hair trigger nail gun is firing in rapid succession. It's human nature to lash out when we are wounded, to hurt the other person. But it's not healthy for the relationship nor is it the way God has called us to respond. We're admonished to "turn the other check" not "return fire'.
There's a saying in customer service training, "when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail". If the only tool in our toolbox is force, than it's what we use when conflict arises. The same holds true in our personal lives. Increasing peace in relationships and interactions requires intentionality. To become a better peacemaker, I need to consciously put the safety on my nail gun and load my tool box with better tools.
* Check Your Heart
At the first sign of inner tension, check your heart to see what it's focused on. Centered on yourself, your words will reflect the feelings of your flesh. Centered on the relationship, they'll reflect love and concern. As Jesus says in Matthew 12:34, "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks."
* Practice Makes Perfect
Rehearse in your mind how you'll respond the next time. If we can imagine ourselves successfully changing our behavior, we are more likely to follow through on that behavior in every day life. Visualization helps you think your way into new ways of acting and being.
* Shut Your Mouth- Literally
To help me hold my tongue, sometimes I have to pretend my jaws are wired shut. If I can just keep my physical mouth from opening, my heart and brain will have time to respond first. Proverbs 15:28 teaches us to think first, then speak. "The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words."
* Ignore What You Can
Certainly there are things that need to be addressed, but most offenses are minor and can be easily overlooked. Consider if the transgression is worth the risk of damaging the person and the relationship. Proverbs 19:11 teaches, "A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense."
* Fill Your Mind with Incompatible Thoughts
It's impossible to lash out while your mind is focused on a scripture verse or song of praise. Prepare one in advance that you'll recite in your head when in the midst of conflict. Fill your own mind with peace and your words will follow.
Proverbs 10:19 tells us, "When words are many, sin is not absent." It's probably not realistic for me to to become a person of few words. After all, in elementary school I developed a knack for quickly filling a sheet of paper with the words "I will not talk in class" for a reason. Instead I focus on the prayer of Proverbs 19:14, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and Redeemer."
Message for the Journey:
Words spoken in haste can wound like nails driven into a board. Help to protect your relationships by ensuring that your toolbox holds more than just a hammer.
The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
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