When Words Hurt

Proverbs says that life and death are in the power of the tongue. Life words inspire our spouses and children towards fruitful thinking and behavior, while death words tear down, embitter and demoralize them.

How timely it was when our Tuesday couples’ group discussed Craig Groeschel’s Soul Detox series which began with the topic of Toxic Words. What is the most hurtful thing anybody has ever said to you? What is the most encouraging thing that anyone has ever said to you?

These were the questions we were all asked to answer. So each one of us shared about instances in our lives, whether in our childhood, the near past, or in the present, when toxic or life-giving statements were made by family members, friends, colleagues or strangers to us. A number said that parents’ words were a source of deep wounds.

Yet I praise God that most of us applauded our spouses as the persons in our lives who have declared the most positive words to us. I personally thanked Edric for speaking two life giving statements that have meant so much to me. The first is, “I will always love you. There is nothing you can do that will change my love for you.” The other one is, “Don’t worry baby, I will take care of you.” These assuring statements mean so much to me!

To apply the lesson on how to avoid saying toxic words, Edric taught as a simple principle — three guidelines for taming our tongues: Right word. Right time. Right motivation.

Ephesians 4:29 commands us, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Although there may be instances when we need to correct a person, it may not always be the appropriate time to do so. As the passage explains, “according to the need of the moment.” Or, there may be occasions when we want to bring up an issue with our spouse, child, friend, colleague, or subordinate and our motivations are tainted by selfishness. Instead we are to consider whether it will bring “grace” to them. The motivation is restorative, to connect them to or back to Christ.

A few months ago, when our driver accidentally drove the rear car wheel of our vehicle over Elijah’s foot, I know Edric struggled to control his anger. As a protective father, his instinct was to lambast our driver right after the incident happened and pulverize him with criticism, even if Elijah’s foot ended up being okay. However, he thought through the repercussions of shaming our driver. Would this bring him closer to Christ? Would shouting at him testify to Christ-likeness?

Of course the answer to both those questions was, “No.” So Edric paused and denied his first impulse. Later on, in private, he had a serious conversation with our driver about how he could improve. By then Edric could speak in a calm manner while getting the pertinent message about awareness and carefulness across. Our driver, no longer rattled by his mistake, also responded to Edric’s instruction well and was extremely apologetic. Shortly after, Edric had the opportunity to share the gospel with him, which our driver openly received. I don’t think he would have been as responsive to Christ if Edric had closed the door to his heart by lashing out in anger.

I recall another incident when Edric, speaking for the first time before our church congregation, delivered a message that he felt lacked spiritual insight. He walked off the stage discouraged to face my father, who was mentoring him to be a Bible teacher. Expecting to be castigated and lectured he heard the words instead, “Good job. I know you did your best.”

My dad knew what Edric NEEDED to hear at that moment. Eventually, he looked for a teaching moment when he could advise Edric about how to preach a better sermon. However, the point is that he let some time pass so that Edric wouldn’t dwell on his discouragement.

Today, God has given Edric the ability to handle His Word accurately and insightfully. He has grown to be a very good Bible teacher, and this isn’t just a biased wife saying this. I believe God has bestowed upon him a gift for communicating with people. Yet I imagine that Edric may not have pursued this path had my father spoken the right words at the WRONG time when he was mentoring him.

We may not always be the recipient of the same kind of grace that the above examples demonstrated. Some of us may have been (and continue to be) battered and assaulted by abusive speech and negative statements. So how can we safeguard our hearts and minds from the devastating effects of toxic words?

First, we need to fill our minds with truth. After Edric and I broke up in our dating stage to honor God and pursue purity, the evil one bombarded my mind with lies like, “You will never be blessed because of your past mistakes. God will not love you the same way He loves your siblings. You are a failure.” The constant theme behind his deceit was performance-based acceptance. I had to “perform” to earn God’s favor, to do penance in order to redeem myself. However, I clung to the affirming truths that I read in God’s word.

Romans 5:8 assuringly says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” A few chapters down it also declares, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (Romans‬ ‭8:1)‬ ‭

When we sincerely repent, acknowledging our sinfulness to the Lord, and cling to the grace He offers us, He promises that we are no longer condemned. Let us remember this when the evil one seeks to devour our peace and joy with his lies.

While our first response is to counter toxic words and statements with truth — also known as defense — our second response is to apply wise and grace-filled offense.

I recall an incident when one of my relatives remarked, “Catalina is dark, why is she so dark?” in reference to her skin color. It was a tactless comment intended to compare her to my four other fairer-skinned kids. God gave me the wisdom to reply, “Oh really? I love her skin. I think it’s beautiful!” I meant it, too. Instead of challenging my response, that same relative smiled and backed off.

There are people in this world who get a rise out of making comments to provoke others. I have received a number of these on my blog and Facebook Teach with Joy page that may or may not be meant to incite me. They certainly appear to be a challenge to engage in conflict. But I’ve come to realize that I cannot control what people say. The only thing within my control is how I respond.

Whenever I feel the urge to wield the power of the pen to embarrass or belittle those who hurt me with their statements, I have to ask myself, Will I honor God if my retorts are motivated by pride? Is it worth my time to battle with people who like to be combative, who are out to prove that they are right? Might it be better instead to pray for them?

If we belong to Christ, we are accountable to Him for every word that comes out of our mouths (and devices!) Instead of avenging ourselves, He encourages us to “Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.” (Luke‬ ‭6:28)

Oh, I know that’s hard to do! But, the good news is, whenever we start to pray for people who verbally offend us, we actually develop a heart of compassion for them and we change for the better, too. This isn’t to our credit either. It’s because the act of surrendering difficult people to the Lord and elevating the issue we may have with them to a spiritual plane gives us a divine perspective. The Holy Spirit replaces our vindictiveness with Christ’s love and capacity to forgive. Therefore I believe God’s command to bless and pray for people who hurt us is also His way of shielding and liberating us from the anger and hurt we feel when we are victimized by them.

Since most of us live in community with others, we are bound to hear negative statements, accusations, and unkind things said about us. If there is room to improve then let’s humble ourselves and do so, but if these judgements are false and baseless, then let’s be reminded that we are precious to our Heavenly Father. If no one ever affirms us as special and important, He certainly considers us as such. When words hurt us we don’t have to retaliate or carry these hurts into our relationships. The truth of God’s love for us should anchor us so securely that we can speak life words into the hearts and minds of others and respond with wisdom and grace when people verbally attack us or put us down.

Comments

  1. Annie May Braga Leuterio says:

    Thank you. Its so inspiring, affitmimg and educating. I’m learning a lot and I like to apply what I learned in my daily life. God bless you and your family.

  2. Wow! Thank you Ms.Joy.Napakaganda po ng pananaw ninyo.Ang dami kong natututuhan,at nai a-apply sa aking pang araw-araw na buhay.Ganito po ang mga gusto kong binabasa.God bless you po.

  3. Belinda L. Galvez says:

    Thank you Joy…your article always give timely reminders 🙂 I often share these with my married daughter, a mother of three little children and with other ladies as well. Thank you again and may The Lord continue to use you and Edric in His vineyard. Blessings always!

  4. Thank you Joy! Tears fell while reading your article. God bless you! May you continue to be a source of joy and God’s word.

  5. I chuckled at the statement… First, we need to fill our minds with truth. After Edric and I broke up in our dating stage to honor God and pursue purity… Haha, oh my! Naughty bud here!! 😛

  6. Hi Joy just a little advice if yo don’t mind.. I feel sorry for you and want to help you when you said in this post that… “There are people in this world who get a rise out of making comments to provoke others. I have received a number of these on my blog and Facebook Teach with Joy page that may or may not be meant to incite me. They certainly appear to be a challenge to engage in conflict. But I’ve come to realize that I cannot control what people say. The only thing within my control is how I respond. In my humble opinion I think you should be CONFIDENT of yourself. It shouldn’t SHAKE you baby when someone comment you.. you can challenge them as well. By the way don’t take it personally.. hehe 😛

    • I love you with the love of the Lord, Ms. Joy. I attended the IDC last month, and I am really blessed by your life, by your family’s life. Before I used to think maybe this family is living in a sinless life, that is why you are being used mightily by God. But by your book, your blog, by your sibling’s testimony I realized that you are all indeed a human. I mean, you also encounter suffering, you get angry as well, and sometimes compromise. I always feel sorry for myself because I always for short for the glory of God. Though I repent, say sorry to Him, and try to walk again, I feel that I was not really forgiven because of the thinking that in the future I would possibly make mistake again, and God maybe running out of patience with me. By your sharings, Ms. Joy. I was reminded of the rich grace of God thru Lord Jesus, and there is no more condemnation for those who are in Christ. Thank you, Ms. Joy, for the reminder as well that our past mistakes and who we used to be does not define who we are in the sight of God, but what He is seeing in us now is His own Son- Jesus, when He accepted Him as our Lord and Savior, and He is the one who makes us fit for serving Him

  7. Hello Joy, I got into similar situations in the past that result anger building up so quickly. How I wish I could instantly think of a bible passage that could calm my nerves in that situation like what Edric did and come back later blessed and equipped with the gift of understanding. BTW we met Edric at the money summit 2016.

  8. I love you with the love of the Lord, Ms. Joy. I attended the IDC last month, and I am really blessed by your life, by your family’s life. Before I used to think maybe this family is living in a sinless life, that is why you are being used mightily by God. But by your book, your blog, by your sibling’s testimony I realized that you are all indeed a human. I mean, you also encounter suffering, you get angry as well, and sometimes compromise. I always feel sorry for myself because I always for short for the glory of God. Though I repent, say sorry to Him, and try to walk again, I feel that I was not really forgiven because of the thinking that in the future I would possibly make mistake again, and God maybe running out of patience with me. By your sharings, Ms. Joy. I was reminded of the rich grace of God thru Lord Jesus, and there is no more condemnation for those who are in Christ. Thank you, Ms. Joy, for the reminder as well that our past mistakes and who we used to be does not define who we are in the sight of God, but what He is seeing in us now is His own Son- Jesus, when He accepted Him as our Lord and Savior, and He is the one who makes us fit for serving Him

  9. Thank you Miss Joy.. This is really a great reminder for me. Tamang tama sa pinagdadaanan ko ngayun. I know ita not an accident na nabasa ko to ngayun. You’re a blessing to me.. Praise God!❤

  10. Mrs. Bueno says:

    ❤️❤️❤️ Love it. Thanks for sharing! Praying right now for people who have hurt me with their words. They need Jesus and amazing love even if they are church people. We all need to keep growing. God bless you.

    • But the question is did Jesus in the Bible, ever said anything mean to anyone? Let us see below… Lol

      Matt. 15:7, “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, 8 ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me.” 9 ‘But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”

      Matt. 23:27-28, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 “Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

      Oh my there are so much more but I rather stop..

  11. Marilou Guballa says:

    Thank you for this timely reminder, Joy. I am always blessed by your blogs. May God continue to show favor to you and your family. ❤❤❤

  12. 2 chance encounters introduced you to my consciousness this week. Now, I have the chance to read your words. I praise and thank God for using you to bring words of comfort and healing to those who are unable YET to break free from the bondage of hurt through words or abusive relationships.
    May God continue to grant us the grace to be channels and graces of blessings to other. God is good!

  13. Hi, Ms. Joy! It’s a blessing reading your article. Thanks for your continuous effort to write. God bless! 🙂

  14. Anya Lagos says:

    Timely read. Amazing how we come across articles such as this just when we needed it the most. Thank you Ms. Joy for sharing your Godly and wisdom filled stories, such a blessing!

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