When I was considering something dealing with relationships, words came to mind. Our words have the power to either kill someone's spirit or lift them up and bring healing. It's amazing how words can affect our relationships. Imagine yourself at lunch with some friends. One of them uses one of the statements below:
1. "She's just chasing after some man nowadays."
2. "My kids just don't have time for me anymore."
3. "My husband/wife is a jerk! He's/she's just so self-absorbed!"
Do these make you feel uneasy with the direction the conversation is about to go? If not, it should. Here are contrasting statements to the ones before:
1."She has been dating someone lately."
2. "My kids' work schedules are hectic so I don't get to see my kids as much as I'd like."
3. "He/she has had so much on his/her mind lately."
Do these sound different for the same situations? We can avoid gossip if we take our emotional responses out of what we share and insist on keeping the person in a positive light.
The way we state things about someone can influence the way others see them. Do we tear down or do we build up? Character assassination is alive and well, unfortunately, even in churches. How often do we have "roast preacher" for Sunday lunch? Do we truly understand how our pastors prayerfully study God's Word to bring us His message every week? How about the "prayer chain" grapevine? Are we genuinely sharing a prayer concern or seeking attention by sharing someone's "stuff"? Even in our marriages, we find couples tearing away at the character of their mates. When was the last time we gave praise and adoration to our spouses? This erosion in relationships from character assassination is not what God intended at all.
Consider these Scripture passages:
James 1: 19-21
"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you."
"Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment."
"When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water."
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
Words bring life or death, our tongue is evil
bearing false witness seek wise counsel
edify one another build each other up in love"
There is much more in Scripture about our words and how to use them to glorify God and build others up. We are never the Judge of others nor are we the Executioner. So, here are things we should do:
1. If a conversation "heads south", try re-directing it. If it continues to degrade, find an exit and leave. Be careful the company you keep. Stay away from such conversations!
2. If you are hurting and need to blow off steam, seek out counsel from your pastor, an elder of the church of a godly person who keeps quiet about what is discussed with them. You may be able to get a better perspective before you talk with the person who hurt you.
3. Pray! God is always listening. He can handle what you share. His Holy Spirit can guide and direct you, if you let Him.
4. Find ways to praise and lift people up with your words! Catch your spouse and kids doing something right!
5. If you have offended someone with your words, go to them and apologize. Do it right away.
Psalm 16:24 "Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones." May our words be sweet to those who hear them and about those of whom we speak. God bless you!