Gossip. Criticism. Slander. Cursing. Taking God’s name in vain. Scripture is filled with verses reminding us of the woes we’ll experience when our mouths are unguarded. These, we’re informed, should all be matters of the conscience. These are “ought-nots” for the Christian. James says it perfectly, “My brothers (or, sisters) this ought not to be (James 3:10).”
Ah, but more than quicken our consciences, they should be reminders of the darkness of our hearts. When words spill out that “ought not,” and we wound others, we don’t have to wonder, “Where did that come from?” No, we really don’t have to be shocked, because Jesus warned us, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34).” Ewwww, ugly heart!
What, though, if you are on the “other side” of words that wound? Ever been there? Yeah? Me, too! Like a scene from a bad movie, the video clip replays itself over and over in our minds. Every time we re-visit and re-hear the painful words, we re-experience the hurt. The words land in our hearts like a bird on a tree needing to nest. There they lay eggs, which hatch. More wounds. More festering. More fuel to the fire that already burns.
Here’s the way Proverbs explains it (definitely worth pondering this verse):
Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow to its flying, so a curse without cause does not come to nest (Proverbs 26:2).
Huh? Let’s unpack it. The word “curse” is an important word. In my Hebrew lexicon, the full definition says this: to speak ill of another, to vilify, to lower in worth or value, a rude expression intended to hurt or offend, to verbally abuse.
The phrase that follows is most critical, “without cause.” From time to time words sting, and we carry them like boulders in a backpack. However, those words carry some truth. They hold some merit. When words are spoken that have this kind of credibility, we need to do something with them, besides simply haul them around. First, we need to evaluate the following statement: In every criticism there is an element of truth. What’s true? Whatever is true, we take to heart. What we take to heart, we repent of, and make course correction. Then, we should sincerely thank the speaker! “Faithful are the wounds of a friend (Proverbs 27:6).” “Iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17).” These folks, no matter how they may have said the words, intended to help better us. That’s why they called us out. From them we learn, we correct, we move on, and we let go!
However, what if the words spoken were meant to hurt? What if there was no just cause? What then? Stay tuned... (In the meantime, meditate more on those words of Proverbs 26:2. They hold the key. Practice a little Lexio Divina: What does the passage say? What does it mean? What can I do, or change? Let’s compare notes next week.)