When Words Become Weapons

Oops, I did it again. No, I'm not singing a pop song. Once again, I've used words as weapons and hurt someone. Oh, my flesh says it was justified but the Spirit says it doesn't matter. As a believer, I'm called to a higher standard. But this is one I fail at time and time again. Do you too, struggle with controlling your tongue?

The familiar childhood rhyme, "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" isn't true. Words may not break bones,but they do cause wounds- sometimes very deep, lasting ones.

There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there.” The little boy then understood how powerful his words were. He looked up at his father and said, “I hope you can forgive me for the holes I put in you.” “Of course I can,” said the father. (author unknown)

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. 
Proverbs 18:21

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  1. Great Post! I remember that song when I was a child only thing is words do hurt. they cut deep. We really do have a problem with out mouth we will even justify our actions out of our pain and hurt. It's hard to do but not impossible. Killing the flesh is a big struggle because we know God's word is truth and we try to reason it no matter how bad we was hurt we think God says it's okay when God says it is not okay, when we are anger or upset we just can't say anything that want to fly out of our mouths. But thank God He doesn't hold it against us when we do things like this, He does correct us that is for sure.

  2. Wise words--and I need to hear these reminders often! I need to work on literally shutting my mouth, and filling my brain with incompatible thoughts--particularly when I'm talking to my drama-prone always-chatting 6-year-old!

    Good post!