During my mom's illness and after her death I was hurt by a couple family members. During this intense time of grief my pain magnified. For nearly two years I harbored resentful feelings and bitterness. And, when I opened my mouth, sourness towards them spewed like snake venom.
Living in the malice cage is bondage. Two years later, after realizing my desperate need to rid my life of such toxic poison, I finally humbled myself, went to both people and sought their forgiveness. Thankfully, restoration occurred and it wasn't the death of our relationship.
This is not the only time I have verbally torn someone apart. I still periodically wrestle with this. My main point in part 3 of this tongue trouble series, is that stored venom destroys our minds, our hearts and our mouths, especially when there is long standing tension in relationships, no matter how hard we try to live peaceably.
The last two weeks I've shared about gossip and resolving conflict biblically. When these kinds of issues are settled healing can be experienced. But, let's be honest, how about those relationships that drain your joy and leave you parched? Whenever you think of these difficult people your eyes magnetize to the top of your lids while you forcefully exhale.
The passage in James delivers a hard-hitting truth. How can we praise God one minute and tear down our brother or sister the next? The very people we 'talk about' are also made in the image of God. Ridiculing those made in His likeness has no place for those seeking to honor the Lord with their tongues. Falling into this trap creates tongue trouble with monumental impact.
In my experience, I can be doing fine until a conversation leads to an old injury. Or, I'm posed with a question, that, if I answer 'truthfully' it would be more like splatter paint than a piece from Picasso. Even though I've forgiven them, my heart starts to get all worked up again! I have to force my will to pray on the spot: Oh Lord, I need your help (like right now!) in not dishonoring these people.
We all have E.G.R's. (Extra Grace Required). So, how can we be honorable towards them without tearing them down as James instructs?
- Remember Whose image they are made in.
- Memorize verses related to the tongue.
- Establish healthy boundaries.
- When forced with a compromising situation, pray on the spot.
- Find the good in them and dwell on it.
- Seek the Lord in how to truly love them.
- Resist the temptation to strike with sarcasm. (that one's for me!)
Much of stored venom stems from burdensome people in our lives, no matter how much we strive to live in right relationships with them. The longer poison stays bottled up the more toxicity develops. Seeking to be respectful of challenging people requires intentional choice and action.
Lord, please help us to praise and not punish, care and not curse, love and not loathe. May our mouths be instruments of mercy, not malice; rejoicing, not regret; sweetness, not sourness; encouragement, not enmity; compassion, not criticism; respect, not resentment; healing, not hatred; and veneration, not venom.
Please comment and share your ideas for not dishonoring difficult people.
Pick two verses below, write them on index cards and memorize them this week.
How can you better respond with formidable people in your life?
What stored venom exists in your heart?
Do you recognize the damage harbored poison develops?
Heart Transforming Word:
Psalm 141:3 "Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips."
Proverbs 10:19 "When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise."
Proverbs 12:18 "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing."
Proverbs 15:4a "The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life."
Proverbs 21:23 "He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity."
James 1:26 (NIV 1984) "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless."
James 3:6 and 8 "The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. But no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison."
1 Peter 3:9-10 "Don't repay evil for evil. Don't retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with blessing. That is what God has called you to do , and he will bless you for it. For the Scriptures say, 'If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies.' "
Copyright 2012 by Hester Christensen. All rights reserved.