I’m grateful for Connie Leonard who wrote this amazing post about our tongues, what we say and what we choose to believe. And it’s fun that she referenced The Muir House too. Take a moment to read her wise, faithful words:
“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….no one can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” James 3:6-8 (NIV)
I just finished reading The Muir House by Mary DeMuth. The main character’s mother was neglectful and verbally abusive. Willa carried deep scars and the hateful, hurtful words replayed in her mind and heart. Although she was intelligent, creative, and successful, she allowed her mother’s words to define her. The godly man who loves her confronts her about the past. He says, “You grew so accustomed to being treated that way that it became your normal….you’ve taken (your mother’s) place. You’re just as awful to yourself as she was to you.” He goes on to tell her to shake hands with her past—acknowledge it, let it go, and walk away. How many of us are haunted by hateful, hurtful words from the past? Do we believe them and allow them to define us? Do we devalue ourselves because someone else failed to see our value as God’s child, fearfully and wonderfully created in His image? Do the scars overshadow our potential? If so, it’s time to give them to God, leave them behind, and move on.
We know how powerful words are. The old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is a fallacy. Broken bones heal quicker than broken hearts and spirits. When my husband’s best friend earned his doctorate in ministry, he wished his third grade teacher could see him—the teacher who said he would never amount to anything. That thoughtless, cruel teacher wounded a little boy’s spirit, and he carried the scars into adulthood.
The world is full of mean-spirited people. We can deal with the criticism and rejection in the world if we know we’re loved at home. Unfortunately, many people don’t have a refuge from the storms even at home. They may have verbally abusive spouses or parents. As a public school teacher for twenty-three years, I saw firsthand the damage done to children who didn’t receive encouragement and support from home. They had no confidence in themselves. They may be smart, creative, good looking, but if all they heard from home was how bad they were, what they did wrong or what was wrong with them, they couldn’t see their potential. Other kids who had less going for them radiated confidence because their families believed in them, encouraged them, cheered them on. One little boy wrote in his journal about how his parents tried to have a baby for years. When he was born, they saw him as a precious gift from God, and they told him everyday what a blessing he was. How much better the world would be if all children were recognized as a precious gift from God, to be cherished, protected, and loved.
If we have lived with criticism, we don’t have to follow that pattern. We can be transformed by the renewing of our minds. If we are in Christ, we are “a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (II Corinthians 5:17). In Ephesians chapters five and six, Christ gives us guidelines for successful family relationships. We are to love, honor, and cherish one another, submitting our will to each other. Children should honor and respect their parents, and parents should not “exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the master” (Ephesians 6:4 The Message).
My prayer for us today is that we will confront the pains and hurts of the past, give them to God, and move on. May we encourage and edify others rather than discouraging or destroying. May we be patient and kind, slow to anger. May we use our tongues to praise rather than curse or slander others, remembering they are God’s creation, also. Imagine His pain and displeasure when we disparage His children. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if you have love one for another” (John 13:35 NIV).