“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” – Proverbs 18:21
Your tongue has power. The power to bolster, praise, uplift, encourage, and give life. It has the power to educate, rebuke, correct, and challenge. It also has the power to belittle, maim, crush, demean, wound, and scar.
I hadn’t really realized power of words until I began to learn of my husband’s past and the inner war that ensued from the moment he was told these six words from his father:
“You are a piece of shit.”
Sorry for the bad language. But, sadly, this is the reality of what happened and I wouldn’t be doing it justice if I sugar-coated it and made it fluffy. It wasn’t fluffy. It was painful.
Unfortunately, it didn’t stop after that sentence was spoken, but was followed by an assortment of other terrible things his parents have told him from his teenage years beyond.
I wish I could express the depths of his struggle clearly, but I know that even I only get a glimpse of his inner turmoil when he bears his soul to me. He has to live with those thoughts floating around in his mind, and the enemy capitalizes on this at every turn and in every situation possible. What seems like a simple mistake to me, can make Ethan feel like an utter failure. Sometimes it takes him days to recover and pull himself out of the pit of lies.
Wounds inflicted by words run so deep. They attack the very fiber of our beings, they imbed into our hearts and minds like leeches sapping away our joy, and they cause us to question the most integral and essential part of ourselves – our identity.
It is absolutely heartbreaking to witness this amazing man, this man who would die defending the weak, who has chosen to take in and father a child not his own, a man who bends over backwards to help friends and family in need, a man with such raw talent and strength, struggle to view himself as anything but those six words he heard. Instead, he struggles with feelings of worthlessness, self-doubt, self-hatred, and inferiority.
Ethan has heard some truly awful things over the years, but the one that lingers and keeps resurfacing is the initial blow. The point when he felt like he had lost the love and approval of his parents, and he heard what he believes to be their “true” opinion of him.
That’s the power of words for you, and the enemy uses them as a weapon.
I pray with him and for him. I try my absolute best to immerse him in love and compassion and share the love God has for him whenever I feel prompted. But this wound is one that only Jesus can heal, and it will be in His timing. I trust Him. I trust that He loves Ethan even more than I do, and I have made my peace with the fact that the time has not yet come.
I am writing this because it absolutely crushes me to hear people labeling themselves, their children, their friends, their family members, and sometimes so casually.
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” -Proverbs 12:18
While we don’t typically hear of the types of cruel words that Ethan heard, the labels we give others, especially parent to child, can be powerful and have massive consequences, either positive or negative.
I think the label I hear the most often is “control freak.”
In our culture, this has become a laughable or applauded title to obtain. One to adopt with pride.
But let’s consider what comes with this label.
When we say that we are a “control freak” we are limiting our true identity in Christ. One that is centered around FREEDOM and JOY and PEACE despite hardship and things not going as we hoped. As a Child of God – which is our truest identity – we should be focused, first, on loving the Lord and, second, on loving others. Our desire to control people, things, and events lessens our ability to love unconditionally, trust the Lord, and rest.
The enemy WANTS us to believe that we are not free – that we cannot have happiness, peace, or rest until x, y, and z are just so. THAT IS NOT FROM GOD. He can bring us joy, peace, and rest DESPITE things not being anything like x, y, and z.
The enemy WANTS you to chase after this illusive idol that is “control” because he knows you will never grasp it. He knows you will come up short and that it will cause the reaction unique to you, whether that be anger, fear, worry, sadness, hopelessness, depression, or anxiety.
The enemy WANTS you to question whether God has your best interest at heart. He WANTS you to think that your plan is best, because he definitely doesn’t want God taking the reigns in your life. That’s when the miraculous happens. That’s where real power comes from! And he can’t have that.
The enemy WANTS you to relive the most painful moments of your past and get stuck on them. He doesn’t want you to be free. He doesn’t want you to be able to move forward. He wants you in the pit of lies and misery with him. Words are one of the weapons he uses.
The enemy WANTS to keep you from discovering and living in you God-given identity and rise up to being the person you were created to be. The enemy wants to drown you in pain and lies, because when we are drowning, it is hard to even save ourselves let alone others.
So, dear friends, I pray that you take heed with your tongue. Get that thing on a leash and don’t let it run wild. Don’t let it leave a wake of destruction behind it. Don’t let it limit you or others. Don’t let it speak lies into existence about your identity or the identity of others.
”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.” – Ephesians 4:29
If Emmy is misbehaving, I refrain from her she is “A bad girl” or even that she’s being a bad girl, I instead tell her “You better shape up or you’re getting a punishment.”
When Ethan has hurt my feelings, I refrain from tell him he’s “a jerk” or that he’s being a jerk, I tell him “when you said x, it really hurt me.”
It’s also more to the point. You’re aren’t going for blood, you’re seeking resolution. Don’t go for the jugular, attack the issue.
On the flip side, telling Emmy that she is a leader, that she is smart, that she is generous … those are amazing gifts that I can give her as a parent. They are a verbalization of the unique gifts I have seen rising out of her and I want her to know that they are awesome!
When I tell her or Ethan that they were created intentionally, uniquely, and with purpose… those are promises of God that I can use to edify my family and remind them of the Truth.
Let’s call out the GIFTS in others, let’s reject false labels, whether self-imposed or other-imposed. Let’s live in the light and freedom of Christ so that we can continue to become the person God created us to be. Let’s call out the buds of greatness we see in each other so they can continue to grow!