With a two-year-old toddler running around our house, my wife and I now have nightly routine that looks like washing bottles, picking up dirty diapers, and stowing away plastic toys. As you can guess, this isn’t the most exciting or enjoyable part of our day. This coincidentally is also when many of our arguments take place. With the accumulated stress from the day resting on both of our shoulders, it’s an easy time to complain.
One such time happened recently. After picking up, yet another dirty diaper, I glared at my wife and said something along the lines of, “Why can’t you just throw the diapers in the trash instead of leaving them around for me to pick up every evening!?”
I know, I know, not the smartest thing to say to your wife who has spent their entire day teaching a room full of other people’s kids AND then cooked supper for you AND is still finding the energy to help clean up the house before collapsing in bed.
Obviously, this isn’t what she wanted to hear and her response was something along the lines of, “Well, if you would help me get our child ready in the mornings then I might actually have time to throw his diapers in the trash!”
From there, we took turns tossing low-blow verbal assaults at each other. Our living room became a battlefield of insults and accusations and we spent the better part of ten minutes one-upping each other before the words I had recently read from Proverbs 18:21 came to mind:
“The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” Proverbs 18:21
I realized that I was not only speaking insults to my wife, I was speaking death. I was killing the atmosphere of our home and making it a verbal war zone. Thankfully, that truth stopped me in my tracks and ended our argument before it got any worse.
If we’re not careful, our words will cut deep and kill the kind of intimacy and oneness God desires for our marriages. It doesn’t happen overnight, but gradually, if enough mud is thrown and enough pain is endured— there is no doubt what the final result will be.
That incident, and others like it, has made me realize just how important our words can be. God created everything by speaking it into existence. From His very breath came the stars, the ocean and the ground we stand on. His words created life and to this day, His words still create life.
But, we must choose to use His words. It doesn’t come naturally.
Whether you know it or not, every day you are creating either life or death within your relationships. Your words are building someone up or tearing them down. Your spouse, your children, your co-workers, your friends— they’re all being affected by your choice to choose life or death with your tongue.
Negative circumstances and negative situations are going to arise. You are going to get aggravated at your spouse and your kids. You are going to have car trouble. You are going to have bad days.
And while you may not be able to control what happens to you, you can control how you respond. Our natural, knee-jerk reaction is to react out of emotion. And if it is a negative circumstance you can bet you are going to have a negative reaction.
The only way to overcome this vicious cycle of negativity is to take the time to respond.
However difficult, unfortunate, or negative your circumstance may be — it is always possible to respond with life, instead of death.
If carefully choosing your words feels like a weighty responsibility, it’s because it is a weighty responsibility. The words we choose determines the atmosphere of our lives and the quality of our relationships — so choose wisely.