My first husband and I loved each other very much, but we hit a few rough patches when he went to seminary. I home educated our children at the time. He was at home studying, instead of work, so this new situation threw me for a loop. He disrupted our schedule every day! After a while, I resented his intrusion into our routine and blew up at him. He felt unwanted at home, like there was no place for him. I felt like he didn't care if we accomplished our lessons. So, we argued about it, finally asking our pastor for some help to work through this rough patch. This wise pastor pulled a $2 bill out of his drawer, handing it to Don, he said, "Go out for some ice cream, just the two of you. Remember your manners. Simple things like "Please" and "Thank you", "Excuse me" and "I'm sorry" will go a long way." He recognized we had taken each other for granted. When we began to show respect for each other and spend time together without the children, our difficulties toned down. We began talking through sticky situations. He found his place at home, and our home school routine was re-established. If we had not made these changes, it could have paved the way of divorce court. They don't refer to seminary as "cemetery" for no reason!
The words we use with people make a huge difference in our relationships. Not only the words, but our attitudes reflect in our tone of voice. Say something encouraging to your spouse, you build them up. Shred their character, you've fueled a raging fire ready to consume both of you! Just like toothpaste can't be put back into the tube, once the words come out of your mouth, they can't be taken back.
Our behavior also makes a difference in how polite or rude people see us.Have you ever been in the parking lot of a store, you spied out a parking spot in your aisle, then someone quickly rounds the corner taking your spot as you get ready to pull in? Rude? UGH! What about the checkout person who talks with the bagger the entire transaction, but never even acknowledged your existence? The only thing you get from them is, "That will be $$$$." No please, no thank you, no have a nice day? Hmmph. The self-centered-ness of our society breeds rudeness and encourages Me-itis! Are we like that to others?
According to James, our words have a tremendous effect on others. Our words can steer the course of someone's decisions or stab someone though the heart. Proverbs 15 and James 3:2b talks about the correlation between someone's words with their character. Someone prone to angry words is controlled by emotions rather than the Holy Spirit and wisdom. A wise man considers his words (Proverbs 15:28); however, we all stumble in many ways (James 3:2a). How can we praise God and slit someone's throat with our words? How can we love God, yet hate our neighbor (Matthew 5:44, Leviticus 19:18)? That same wise elderly pastor, when encountering a difficult person, would sigh and say, "Isn't the love of Jesus wonderful?" He was essentially saying he appreciated the grace of our Lord when it was difficult for him to be so grace-filled. Our family never heard a mean word out that man's mouth! We are all prone to using our words inappropriately, but we are called to repent, change the direction of our words.
Wise people control their speech; it shows in their actions. Foolish, evil people are very reactive in speech and behavior. Our character shows. Which character would you rather display? The wise person or the foolish person? I separated out the Proverbs 15 passage by words and behavior. Feel free to look it over and consider this passage.
Relationships are fragile, handle with care. Being polite is an art. Not many of us practice it as well as we ought. The basis of being polite is respect. We are called to hone that art. Remember simple courtesies like "Please" and "Thank you", "Excuse me" and "I'm sorry".
It could mean the difference between a lifelong friendship and war, marital bliss and divorce.
May God bless you!
A soft answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly,
But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.
A wholesome tongue is a tree of life,
But perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
The lips of the wise disperse knowledge,
But the heart of the fool does not do so.
A scoffer does not love one who corrects him,
Nor will he go to the wise.
The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge,
But the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness.
A wrathful man stirs up strife,
But he who is slow to anger allays contention.
A man has joy by the answer of his mouth,
And a word spoken in due season, how good it is!
The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord,
But the words of the pure are pleasant.
The heart of the righteous studies how to answer,
But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.
The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
Keeping watch on the evil and the good.
A fool despises his father’s instruction,
But he who receives correction is prudent.
In the house of the righteous there is much treasure,
But in the revenue of the wicked is trouble.
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
But the prayer of the upright is His delight.
The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
But He loves him who follows righteousness.
Hell and Destruction are before the Lord;
So how much more the hearts of the sons of men.
A wise son makes a father glad,
But a foolish man despises his mother.
Folly is joy to him who is destitute of discernment,
But a man of understanding walks uprightly.
A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance,
But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
All the days of the afflicted are evil,
But he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.
Better is a little with the fear of the Lord,
Than great treasure with trouble.
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is,
Than a fatted calf with hatred.
The way of the lazy man is like a hedge of thorns,
But the way of the upright is a highway.
Without counsel, plans go awry,
But in the multitude of counselors they are established.
The way of life winds upward for the wise,
That he may turn away from hell below.
The Lord will destroy the house of the proud,
But He will establish the boundary of the widow.
He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house,
But he who hates bribes will live.
The Lord is far from the wicked,
But He hears the prayer of the righteous.
The light of the eyes rejoices the heart,
And a good report makes the bones healthy.
The ear that hears the rebukes of life
Will abide among the wise.
He who disdains instruction despises his own soul,
But he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.
The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom,
And before honor is humility.