Christianity 201

September 7, 2015

Hurting Others With Our Words

Today we turn to pastor and author Chip Ingram.  Last week at Thinking Out Loud we looked at relationships in the church which can disintegrate slowly over a period of time, and those which fade quickly due to a variety circumstantial issues. But often a relationship blows up in a split second over something someone says…

Speak No EvilWhy We Hurt Others with Our Words

Has someone ever said something judgmental and negative behind your back that questioned your motive, integrity or character? If so, how did it make you feel when you found out about it? Probably pretty rotten, right? Nothing is more painful than when someone says something about you that is blatantly untrue.

In fact, few things have the power to ruin a relationship like critical, accusing, defaming, hostile and inaccurate or even slanderous words.

All of us can probably think a time when we were hurt by someone’s words. And we probably know of at least one good relationship that was destroyed, a church that was split, or a family that doesn’t talk any more because of hurtful words.

The Bible is clear that we’re to stop “tearing one another down” by our “slanderous” speech: Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.  There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11-12)

So, what is “slanderous” speech? It’s to say something untrue or negative about another person. More specifically, it’s to say something about someone (that may or may not be true), but when we say it, our motive is to make others think less of that person.

Most of the time, we’re not even aware that we’re using slanderous speech. It happens in our normal conversation and even in our prayer requests. Often, it’s not intentional or even willful. It’s the kind of speech that rolls off our tongue and doesn’t ever come to our minds.

So how can we know if our speech is slanderous? It’s harmful if the one who is listening has a lower or negative view of a person we were talking about as a result of our conversation.

Why do we wound others with our words? Why do even sincere Christians engage in this behavior? There are two reasons:

1. Unconsciously, when it comes to relationships we buy the lie: “If other people would shape up, then my life would work out.” When we have a conflict with our spouse, our boss, kids, or even a conflict in a church situation, it’s much easier to cast blame and assume that the problem is the other person. We do this in order to justify our own behavior. Rather than face our own insecurity and fear of being rejected, we put down the other person first. Sound familiar?

2. We have a perverse appetite for information. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts. (Proverbs 26:22)  We love gossip because we love to hear yucky stuff about other people. Go through any grocery store checkout line and you’ll see that almost all of the magazines displayed are geared toward finding out the gossip about celebrities. They tell us who’s broken up with so and so and who is living with someone else.

Many of us have gotten caught in the web of speaking against another person. I believe that this is so common even among Christians that it’s not a question of “if” this is happening, but a matter of “how much” we are doing it. Until now, perhaps many of us haven’t even thought it was a big deal. But it is. There are some sins that we think are small, but God thinks are really big – and slanderous speech is one of them. Our words have the potential to deeply injure others.

This week, we’ll begin the series Five Lies that Ruin Relationships. In it, we will ask and answer the question: “Do wrong beliefs produce wrong behavior?” We’ll also identify five common lies we believe that prevent us from having the kind of relationships God longs for us to have. During our time together, it’s my hope and prayer that we’ll discover the power in knowing and applying God’s truth to our relationships.

[Click the link above to navigate Chip’s blog and read the rest of the series.]


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