Beyond Damaging Words

This has been one of the most contentious and difficult election cycles in our country. For months we’ve been bombarded with harsh, critical, angry, hurtful words via a variety of communication methods and from a plethora or voices. Now, with votes counted, many are stunned, discouraged and frustrated with the election outcome, while others are joyous, forward-looking and hopeful. But one element of this election that makes all heave a collective sigh of relief is the cessation of campaign slander.

Just as our country must recover and move ahead post-election, so many have the task of moving forward following hurtful words. Most of us have experienced damaging words at some point in our lives, whether uttered deliberately  or thoughtlessly. Either way, it takes effort to deflect  these utterances and not allow them to define us.

As much as we want to act as if words don’t hurt, they do, and our world has become a place where people think nothing of bashing others in very public forums. But there is also another way words wound: gossip, words whispered behind cupped hands and hearsay retold with embellishment.

While other parts of the body may be more prominent,  the tongue is often more dominant and dangerous. The book of James reminds us of the destruction of the tongue. “The tongue is also a small part of the body, but it can speak big things. See how a very small fire can set many trees on fire. The tongue is a fire.” (James 3: 5-6 NLV)

A tiny spark can turn into a raging inferno in a matter of minutes. It’s the same with words, strategically spoken with malicious intent—a tiny spark of innuendo, a flicker of speculation, a flame of criticism—and soon self-esteem is crushed or a life is close to ruin.

So what is the way forward when burned by flaming tongues?

Consider the Source – Those with lethal tongues are almost always seeking to elevate themselves. By wounding others, they gain a sense of importance.

Recognize Envy  – A jealous person wields a whip-like tongue, willing to do or say anything to damage the object of envy.

Reject Criticism – Critical words are just the opinion of the person speaking them. They don’t describe or define us and we don’t have to accept them.

Focus on Positives – Many times we remember the negative and forget the positive. The harsh words of one reverberate louder and longer than the encouraging, supportive words of a host of others. Focus on the good, reject the bad, and take a step forward, remembering God is our advocate and champion.

“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious.” (Philippians 4:8 MSG)

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