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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Father Knows Beast”
This episode took a bit of an odd yet emotional turn toward the end. After Spike met his “father”, a manipulative and lazy dragon named Sludge, and ended up being taken advantage of by him playing on his emotions, the younger dragon was confronted by Twilight Sparkle who suggested the possibility that Sludge may not have had his best interests at heart. Spike, in turn, casually responded that Twilight was only acting that way because she was a pony and not a dragon, and in turn dismissed the role she played in raising him.
Naturally, this sort of thoughtless comment caused Twilight to burst into tears, and goes down in my book as one of Spike’s worst moments. It also illustrates the power and danger of any thoughtless thing we might say.
I rag on the Internet a lot on this blog but…honestly? I love it. And one of the things I love the most about it since I’m so socially awkward and trip over my own words all the time is that it allows me to carefully choose everything I say. Moreover, it allows me to get something impulsive and emotional down in a text box, sit back, look at it for a few minutes, and then decide whether or not I really want to say that or if I should go back on it.
Not so easy in real life. Especially since I often let my anger or sadness run away with me and say things that I may get a thrill out of at the time only to regret deeply later. This has happened with my family, my job, and in public arenas. There are many times I have said something and may have even felt smug or justified at the time, only to go back hours later or lie in bed, and wring my hands in embarrassment or regret and pray to God that the impact of those words be recanted. Especially when I think about how I should have been “as Christ” to someone that day.
As illustrated in the last blog and others, words and/or silence have great power to them. Arguably, they’re the most powerful things about us as human beings. And as such, God has certain demands upon our words.
“If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the Lord your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin.” (Deuteronomy 23:21)
“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Proverbs 12:18)
“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:33-37)
“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37)
The bottom line? God takes the words we say very seriously. And he should. I know from experience that certain things that are said to us when we’re younger are remembered years later, and continue to lodge in our memory no matter how much time passes and shapes who we are. Many people never forgive nor forget certain things said to them, whether it’s something unkind and hateful or something encouraging and memorable. Certain phrases or words can either cast a shadow on our lives or give enlightenment for years to come.
Case in point, in regards to this message, I remember something important my dad told me: “You are the master of your unspoken word.” Simple enough, but very true. Being too quick to speak may mean you have to recant what you say, explain it, protect it from misinterpretation, or try to keep others from spreading it around if they prove to be untrustworthy. Holding your tongue at the right time, on the other hand, saves you a world of trouble.
I’ve talked in the past about the need to watch carefully what we say, but considering that it’s such an important topic, I think it merits repeating a few pointers to keep in mind every time we feel the need to respond to something that makes us feel particularly emotional.
- If necessary (or possible), wait. Especially if whatever was said makes me feel angry or upset. There are very few things I’ve ever said in my life in anger that I ended up not wishing I could take back as soon as I was calmer, and blowing up in rage never does anyone any good…including ourselves.
- Ask yourself if it’s what Jesus would say. There are many times I’ve felt justified or clever in wanting to say things to others but, when I think about it and meditate on the life of Jesus, I realize that ultimately all I would say would end up boosting me but no one else. It wouldn’t serve any useful or beneficial purpose to anyone; it would just give me some temporary gratification.
- Ask yourself if it’s true. As I’ve cautioned before in the past, we do not see the world as it is but as we are. That leads to a lot of distortion, especially when we feel like we were insulted or that a wrong has occurred. Consider the situation more carefully. Look at the evidence with fresh eyes. If necessary, talk it over with someone else. Think hard about whether or not what you believe occurred really occurred or if it’s just the way your mind is framing it.
- Ask yourself if its beneficial. In the right setting at the right time with the right phrasing, a criticism or chastisement actually is not only merited but could do some good. When it’s spoken with an ulterior motive of making ourselves look good, is manipulative, is laced with passive-aggressiveness, or is an attempt to publicly humiliate someone…not so much.
- Ask yourself if it’s worth it. While my last devotional focused on the need to speak in the face of silence, in many person-to-person reactions it might be better to ask oneself if it’s worth stirring a pot over. Granted, there are some things in which it’s better to speak up rather than let a wrong continue, even if it will cause a bit of outrage at first, but in our modern world and especially on the Internet people will say a lot of things just to get our dander up or start an argument for the sake of arguing. Not all of these battles are worth fighting. Sometimes the best move is, rather than being baited into something, to let it go—even if an opponent will boast that it means you’re speechless and that they’ve “won” the argument. As Mark Twain once observed: “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”
- Always remember the motive. For the Christian, the ultimate motive behind everything has to be to bring glory to God and his Kingdom. That includes everything we say. For that matter, it’s best for most of us to always ask if we’re building it up or tearing it down in everything we say to another, but especially when responding emotionally.
Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, I thank you again for the power of my words and the ability I have to teach, to show love, to console, to reconcile, and to build up and encourage others that I have through them. Today, I confess all the times I’ve used this ability to tear down others or gratify myself rather than aid people or give glory to you, and I repent of them. Please help me to use this God-given gift as you intend me to use it in the future. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”