The Words Series, Part 3: Them’s Fightin’ Words

 

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Have you ever had someone be mean to you?

Really mean.

Maybe it was warranted, if meanness can ever be warranted, but maybe it was completely unsolicited and the person just needed to take out their sadness or madness or terribleness on someone and you happened to be the closest human.

In Part 3 of The Words Series, we’re talking about what to do when you hear “fightin’ words.”  We talked about gracious words in Part 1 and about silencing ourselves when fewer words are called for in Part 2, but today we explore what God tells us to do when harsh words are leveled at us.

1.  Recognize verbal attacks on you will inevitably happen.

People having been saying deceptive things for thousands of years.  Leveling attacks against one another.  Spreading untruths.  God tells us not to put any stock in them.  And He warns us not to start doing it ourselves (even in return).

Do not trust in deceptive words. – Jeremiah 7:8

If anyone teaches otherwise…they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth.  I Timothy 6:4

Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you. – Ezekiel 13:8

These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them.  For they mouth empty, boastful words …they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error.  They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves.  II Peter 2:18

2.  Acknowledge there is nothing you can do to control what someone else says.

3.  Forgive them anyways.

In a conversation between Jesus and Peter, Peter thought he was being magnanimous by saying, How many times should I forgive my brother? Up to seven times?  Because let’s face it, forgiving someone seven times IS pretty magnanimous by today’s standards – and I’m sure it was then too.  But Jesus replied with, No, not seven times.  But seventy times seven.  (Matthew 18)  We don’t have to continue to put ourselves in the path of someone who attacks us or tears down our character, but recognizing there isn’t anything we can do about it means that we keep forgiving them if they keep attacking – even from a distance.

If you forgive others, you will be forgiven.  Matthew 6:14

Every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven.  Matthew 12:31

4.  Only respond with words that reflect your character.  Do not allow someone else’s meanness to incite you to impugn your own character; that feeds into what they’re seeking (a reaction, inflicting pain) and it gives their statements credibility if you respond in anger. 

There’s a scene in I Samuel 24 when King Saul and David, who was not yet king, were near one another in the desert at the height of Saul’s hatred for David.  David had the opportunity to kill King Saul as his men encouraged him to do.  But instead, David rebuked his men, and called out to King Saul, “This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’ See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. See that there is nothing in my hand to indicate that I am guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life.  May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.”

Saul, shocked, responds, “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. You have just now told me about the good you did to me; the Lord delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me.  When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today.  I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands.”

I don’t know what would have happened had David acted rashly, as he sometimes did, and killed King Saul.  I don’t know if that would have prevented him from ascending to King.  But I do know that he trusted the Lord to judge what happened, refused to be drawn into a terrible reaction by someone else’s bad words and actions, and he was rewarded by becoming King.

5.  Then leave it to God to sort out. 

A little later in this story, II Samuel 22 shares David’s joy and ultimate blessing because he left it in God’s hands:

David sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul He said, The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation…He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn.  This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord says the Lord.  Isaiah 54:17

 

The Words Series: Part 2, When Less is More

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The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?  Eccles. 6:11

 Yesterday, I kicked off The Words Series with instruction about how we should speak gracious words that heal instead of wound.  Sometimes, there are no gracious words left.  That’s when we just stop talking.

I ended yesterday’s post with Ecclesiastes 10:

Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious.. But do you remember that it left us hanging?

This is what followed:  but fools are consumed by their own lipsAt the beginning their words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness.

There are plenty of opportunities for us to speak life into other people.  Yesterday I shared the passage from the Bible that warns, “death and life are in the power of the tongue.”  Unfortunately, all too often, the words we’ve chosen aren’t life-giving but life-taking.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of that?  I have a memory seared in my mind from when I was 12.  Words shot like flaming arrows from one adult to another that left them with permanent burn scars.  You would think that single memory of the absolute horror words can bring down would temper my mouth.

Yet I fail.  I speak when silence would be a far better alternative.  I’ve written about how the most insightful piece of advice I received from a woman leader I interviewed for my book was to actively listen.  Put on the role of listener instead of talker.

God agrees.  Listening may be a far safer option.  There are serious cautions in the Bible for the person who can’t learn to control what they say:

“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.  For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matt. 12:37

The reality is, our words reflect who we are.  We will be judged, both by those we encounter and by God, by what we say.   And imagine having to stand and give account for every empty word spoken.  That stops me in my tracks.

Even for those who don’t believe in God, the adage holds true.  What did our mothers always tell us?  If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.  People judge who you are by what you say.

Let’s hold each other accountable and stop speaking if our words will be less than gracious.  Let’s show how we can encourage one another one with love and support and take a tiny step to making our current culture less vitriolic.

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. I John 3:17

The Words Series: Part 1, Healing Words

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I love words. 

No really, it’s more than just being a writer and a voracious reader.  If you’ve ever taken Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages quiz, then you know there’s an entire love language called Words of Affirmation.  That’s mine.  In spades.

Recently, because of some life circumstances that required me to pray very specifically over words, I had the opportunity to study what God says about words.  As I read all these references to words in the Bible (there’s over 400!), I saw some themes emerging.  Themes about what to say, how to say it, when not to speak, how to react with words, what His words look like, and so much more.

I could easily have written a ten part series on God’s take on words.  However, since you might not be QUITE as obsessed with this little study as I am, I’ll limit this series on words to this week.  I know I’ve only barely skimmed the depths of what God would really like to teach me.

Part 1 is about using your words to heal, and not to wound.  I’ve read Proverbs 16 many times, and while I love the entire chapter (especially that whole part about gray hair being a crown…), it has profound wisdom to offer on what words to use and how to use them.

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Gracious words are a honeycomb,
    sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

I love this visual of a honeycomb.  All those beautiful hexagons working fitted together by focused bees collaborating to create a mound of honey.  What if every time I went to utter a sentence, I filtered it through a honeycomb?  {===>Click To Tweet} What if I made sure that the words that came out of my mouth everyday were sweet as honey rather than bitter or harsh?

This is not the only reference in the Bible to gracious, healing words.  There are beautiful images in Deuteronomy 32, Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants Moses went on to say, in verse 47, “They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess…”

God provides a lot of guidance about words.  He tells us when not to use them (more to come), how He uses them, and how those bent on destruction can use them for their purposes, but when He talks about GOOD words, and our call to use good words, there’s often beautiful healing imagery.  Imagine if the words we uttered to our friends and our spouse and our kids and our co-workers were like rain showers on new grass.  {===>Click To Tweet}  In other words, the exact words they needed to have spoken in their lives.  Proverbs 18 tells us that the tongue has the power of life and death.  Life and death!  Isn’t that extraordinary?  How can we make sure that what we say speaks life and healing?

Your words have supported those who stumbled; you have strengthened faltering knees. Job 4:4

And Mordecai sent letters to all the Jews…of goodwill and assurance. Esther 9:30

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Psalm 119: 103

Gracious words are pure in his sightProverbs 15:26

Therefore encourage one another with these words. I Thess.4:18

When we head back to Proverbs 16, the honeycomb scripture that propelled me into this study of words, the entire chapter has so much to tell us about using words.  I should have know such wisdom would come from a chapter in the Bible that starts with this as its introduction: To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue. It goes on to say, “The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent..,” and “Gracious words promote instruction…”

How do we make our words gracious?  How do we find words to heal?  From the Lord.  It’s right there as clear as can be.  All of the instruction that follows in the chapter about how to speak and what to say stems from the introductory guidance:  from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.

However, reality shows us that our words, and other’s words, are often not gracious.  We sometimes use words when our mouths should remain closed.  Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious… (Eccles. 10:12) BUT it goes on to say…

That’s what we’ll cover tomorrow – the flip side.

Photo Credit: Nutty Maths

Fashion Fridays: When Your Body Hasn’t Changed

Ahem, as you may have gathered, I’m frequently on a spectrum of sizes.  I currently have three “active” sizes in my closet – that means I’ve worn that size within a three year period.

However, I have friends, nearly approaching 40, that haven’t changed sizes, even post baby(ies).  God bless these people.

The only down side to this dilemma if you’re a career gal is that there has not been an intervening event that has required you to go buy new clothes.  You can get into the same clothes that you wore when you started your job 8 years ago.  You’ve been wearing the same pair of black pants every week for almost 500 weeks.  They’ve seen better days.

So here are a few tips for the fortunately fit woman who has managed to keep her girlish figure:

1.  Periodically buy new staples.  Because you stay the same size, you can shop off season or at outlets because there is no pressing need.  Those gorgeous wool camel trousers you wear twice a week in the winter, replace them in the summer when they’re marked down 50%.  Even though the classic staples don’t go out of style, they do get worn and faded and need an update for you to look polished.

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2.  Evaluate trend pieces.  This means pick up an In Style or Vogue and see if there’s an on trend piece you can add to modernize your wardrobe as well as pull out items that no longer are current.  Sometimes, you can repurpose them.  I had two suits that felt dated because of the cut.  I pulled the pants out and wore them as separates, and then I took the blazers to the tailor to shorten the length so they would feel updated.  It’s also easy to modernize with accessories – injecting a new fabric or pattern with a scarf or adding an oversized necklace in this season’s colors.

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3.  Eliminate items of your youth.  I have a gorgeous girlfriend at work that still had items in her closet from college even though she was in her late 30s.  A number of them were racy and form fitting.  Her body hadn’t changed but she was ready for her style to mature.

4.  Get a third party perspective.  You’ve seen that I’ve edited girlfriends closets or taken them shopping with a new look in mind.  But there’s lots of folks that do this as a profession.  My same fabulous girlfriend, once she’d decided to modernize her closet, went to Nordstrom’s and booked an appointment with a personal shopper there.  The shopper doesn’t charge, asks your price point and for ideas about your style, and I think my friend walked out with 16 new pieces for her wardrobe that were versatile enough for work or date night.

So congratulations on staying the same size.  But don’t forget to edit your closet at least once a year to keep it fresh and modern.

Wordless Wednesdays

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