We do a lot of talking in our house. Being together all the time allows us many opportunities to communicate. Some of that communication is good and useful, but sadly some of it is unnecessary and harmful.
The boys are at an age where they have developed the bad habit of calling one another names. This usually occurs when they've been hurt physically or emotionally by one another and they want to even the score. My husband and I are working at breaking this habit in the boys by getting to the heart of the matter and trying to train them to speak kindly towards one another. It is hard!
I've been thinking and praying about this a good bit and so have gone to the best source of wisdom on the subject. Funny thing is that as I read what God has to say about communication in the Bible, I am convicted by my own sin in this area. To quote our pastor Steve Shelby, "Words build or destroy relationships. Words matter." We all have a responsibility in how we communicate. Am I responsibly communicating?
Here are some of the scripture I've been reading about our tongues and our communication. (There are too many to post here -- so obviously since God has so much to say on this matter, I'm not alone in my struggle.)
"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is good for building up, as fits the occassion, that it may give grace to those who hear." Ephesians 4:29
"He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity." Proverbs 21:23
"Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." Proverbs 16:24
"Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Proverbs 12:18
"The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who are truthful." Proverbs 12:22
"A soft answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1
"Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies." Psalm 34:13
God is calling me to speak to my husband, children, family, friends, neighbors, etc. in a way that builds them up - all the time. He is calling me to guard my words (think more, talk less) - all the time. He is calling me to use "pleasant" words that are carefully thought out -- not in response to anger - all the time. He is calling me to tell the truth in love - all the time. He is calling me to be soft and gentle in how I speak - all the time. sigh! To quote Paul David Tripp in "What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage." : "Wholesome communication is other focused and other-directed. [It] leaves others hopeful, encouraged, feeling loved." It's not about me!
Wow. This feels like a really tall order. I can keep myself together for stretches of time, but how do I do this all the time? Especially when things don't go as I planned, or when someone else hurts my feelings? I'm tempted at times to throw up my hands in defeat and say it's impossible. And it is... in my own strength.
The boys and I have been studying Susan Hunt's "My ABC Bible Verses" for the past two years (lots to chew on). We recently reviewed Philippians 2:14, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." When I first learned this verse as a new Christian, I applied it to all sorts of things. But as I studied this with the boys, my thinking has changed. I think that verse means that with the help of the Holy Spirit I can do all things that God wants me to do. And, He wants me to guard my tongue, to speak gentle words, to be edifying to others. As I struggle to obey His commands, I can cry out to the Lord for help. I can pray that the Lord would help me to be slow to speak when I tempted otherwise. I can confess and repent when I fail.
I recently went back and listened to a sermon by our pastor Steve Shelby on Speech and Communication. (March 13, 2011) In the sermon, Pastor Shelby says that our speech can be healed. Jesus said, "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." Matthew 12:34 So the things I spout angrily and selfishly are a mirror into what is in my heart. But Jesus can heal my heart and he has taken the first most important step. He died for me because He loves me! He paid for my sins on the cross. When I fully believe what He has done for me and that I'm loved, I will be changed. And I think this is something I need to battle to believe every day. "The healing of my heart will lead to the healing of my tongue."- Steve Shelby
So, to wrap up this incredibly long post which has helped me probably more then it has helped you...
When I am training the boys and getting at the heart of their sin in speaking unkind words to one another, the best thing I can do is to bring them back to Jesus. Remind them of who they are in Him and that He loves them. To not downplay their feelings when they've been hurt by others. Then, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I need to model wholesome and encouraging talk as I interact with them and others. I need to repent quickly when I fail. I know this has only scratched the surface... but God is gracious with me. Teaching me little bits at a time. I still have so much more to learn.