The Deadly Poison of Putdowns
This devotional was written by Leslie Snyder
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. - Ephesians 4: 29 – 32
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.” Those words sung on every child’s playground are all too familiar to adults today. They provided protection, safety, and resistance against the hurtful words of the playground bully. Putdowns like, “You’re stupid!” and, “I can’t believe you wore that!” are examples of the way kids hurt each other with their words. Even worse is what is spoken in hushed tones in the victim’s presence. There are even a growing number of chat rooms with the sole purpose of destroying particular students, a rise in what is now being termed, “internet bullying.” But, as hurtful as these words are when they are spoken from child to child, they inflict the most damage when they are spoken from parent to child.
“Hey chubby…how ‘bout another donut?”
“Why can’t you be like your sister/brother?”
“I can’t stand you…in fact, I can’t believe you’re my son!”
Words like this sink into the soul of a child like a deadly poison resulting in a slow death of the beautiful spirit within them. In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul commands that our words build others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow says, “A torn jacket is soon mended, but hard words bruise the heart of a child.” When others hear you speak to your family, specifically to your children, what do they hear? Do they hear words of encouragement, acceptance and praise, or do they hear careless words of bitterness, anger, condemnation or even worse, contempt? Paul admonishes us to replace anger and bitterness with kindness, compassion and forgiveness. In fact, he states that as a forgiven people we too need to be a forgiving people. Unkind words, an unforgiving spirit, and an argumentative attitude are uncharacteristic of a follower of Christ.
The truth is, words spoken in anger, haste, and carelessness often inflict the deepest, most lasting scars. However, it is never too late to change. Words like, “I’m sorry, please forgive me” can begin the healing process. Why not start today?
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1. Is my speech and action consistent with one who follows the leading of the Holy Spirit or instead am I grieving the Holy Spirit in my words and actions?
2. What relationship in my life needs the most change in how I speak to the other person? Consider one specific way that you can “build up” that person today.
FURTHER READING:James 1: 19-20, 26; Ephesians 5: 19 – 21, 6:4; Proverbs 15:1
Encouraging Parents…Building Families
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