Sometimes the very place God created to bring wholeness causes deep, long-lasting pain. As our guest today reminds us, what we say, whether casually or intentionally, can leave lasting damage.
What You Can’t Take Back
By Tara Johnson
I watched the teenage girl in the pew, her arms hugging her torso, cheeks flushed red as she stared at the floor.
The rest of the congregation was singing some worship song about the peace found in God’s presence but not her. She looked trapped, blue-eyed gaze darting from side to side.
My heart ached as I studied her. She’d told me of her crippling anxiety. Facing each morning with grit was a victory. Just when she’d begun to find a measure of security in the solace of church, a member with an acid tongue accused her of things that were not only unkind, but untrue.
The result were panic attacks every time she stepped foot in church.
Sometimes our Goliaths sit within our pews.
The teenager turned towards me, tears glossing her eyes.
“I’m sorry. I don’t think I can do this. It’s too hard.”
She darted from the sanctuary and never returned.
Scripture says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” (Proverbs 18:21, ESV) This is not just true of the words we speak, but of those we text, type and whisper to others. Everything we communicate yields two results: building others up or tearing them down.
The apostle James had much to say about our tongues. We can claim we love Jesus, love people, do all the good, humanitarian type things the world applauds, and rack up accolades for our holiness, but if we have no control over our mouths, we haven’t learned a thing. “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” (James 1:26, ESV)
Not only is it what we say, but the tone and attitude behind what we say. Negativity and light cannot coexist. Neither can resentment and encouragement. When we say one thing but feel another, we’re nothing more than hypocrites … play-acting our way through our Christian walk.
Scripture says, “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3: 9,10, ESV)
In our family, we have a simple 3 Step Rule of Speaking.
- Is it true?
Let face it … lots of us think we’re right and everybody else is wrong. Maybe sometimes we are. Maybe we aren’t.
- Is it kind?
Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit, so if our words are flung carelessly and hurtfully, we are not being led by God to speak. It’s our sinful self lashing out. It’s that simple. Be kind or hold your tongue.
- Am I speaking from love?
Love should be the motivating factor for all things. If I’m needing to confront someone, I’d better be sure my motive is love and not buried resentment, anger, hostility or “I’ll-show-you” attitude.
An old proverb describes the power of the tongue quite well.
There once lived a woman who gossiped about another lady in her village. Over time, she discovered she’d been wrong about the woman and felt terrible for the awful things she’d said. She visited the village’s wise man and asked how she could take back all the wrong she’d done. He told her to go home, kill her chickens, pluck their feathers, and put them into a bag. On the way back to see the wise man, she was to scatter all the feathers along the road.
The lady obeyed. When she returned to the wise man, he told her, “Go back and pick up all the feathers you have scattered.” The woman was astonished at such a command.
“But, sir, by now the wind has carried the feathers through out the village and beyond.”
“And so it is with your careless words. They are like the feathers scattered in the wind. You cannot retrieve them.”
Let’s talk about this! What resonated with you most when you read Tara’s post? Have you experienced pain similar to the girl she encountered? If so, how does your experience impact your actions today? What is one way you can show others they’re loved and welcomed?
Share your thoughts here in the comments below and make sure to connect with us on Facebook and Instagram!
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Get to know Tara!
Tara Johnson is an author and speaker, and loves to write stories that help people break free from the lies they believe about themselves.
Tara’s debut novel Engraved on the Heart (Tyndale) earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, as well as numerous other accolades. In addition to be published in a variety of digital and print magazines, she has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth radio, Enduring Word radio, television and podcasts. She is a history nerd, especially the Civil War, adores comedy, and will happily play basketball with anyone who asks. She, her husband, and children live in Arkansas.
Connect with her on her Website, on Facebook, and follow her on Instagram.
Check out her novel, Engraved on the Heart!
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