Sticks and Stones

“The poison of vipers is on their lips.” 
Psalm 140:3

The old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” simply isn’t true. Anyone who has felt the stinging barb of criticism knows that words can deeply wound. Lewis Yablonsky, author of Fathers and Sons, observed the effect such negative comments had on his own father. At the dinner table, Lewis’s mother would say things like, “Look at your father! His shoulders are bent down; he’s a failure.

He doesn’t have the courage to get a better job or make more money. He’s a beaten man.” Yablonsky’s father never defended himself. He just kept staring at his plate.

Psychologist and author Abraham Maslow once said, “It takes nine affirming comments to make up for each critical comment we give to our children.” Adults aren’t immune to criticism and put‚Äźdowns either. Let’s focus on the positive traits our partner brings to our marriage. Why not list them? Then point them out—daily and lovingly—to our mate.

Just between us . . .

• Is there a negative comment from your childhood that stays with you? How did it make you feel?
• Do we need to be more affirming and less critical? How can we improve?
• How did Jesus affirm others? (For examples, look at Matthew 16:17–19; 26:6–13; Luke 7:44–48; and John 1:47–48.)
• In what areas of your life are you discouraged? How can I lift you up?

Dear Father, we’re deeply sorry for any harmful words we’ve aimed at each other lately. Please forgive us, and help us to forgive each other. We long to do better at using only words that build, heal, encourage, and affirm. Help us, we pray. Amen.

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This devotional is taken from Night Light for Couples. Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reservedUsed with permission.