Our words are powerful. So how can we handle them?
I Like Parties
I like parties, but I am not very good at inviting people. Well, actually, perhaps I'm too good. The trouble is, when I plan an event, I want everyone to feel included. So I inevitably over-invite.
The issue came to the attention of my mother at one of my teenage birthday parties. She'd expected that I was just having a few girls over for fondue. I like to imagine myself in her place. Opening the door for one of my friends, then watching as more and more smiling and chocolate-hungry teenage girls walked in and gradually filled up the living room, hallway and kitchen. All in all, it wasn’t really too bad; there was still fondue left over for breakfast the next morning. But it was pretty clear that I had a problem.
“What does this story have to do with the power in our words?” I hear you think. Well, I find it a useful analogy. I’ve noticed that I can also over-invite words into conversations. I sometimes say things that I wasn’t expecting to.
Too Much To Say
Recently, my husband and I were chatting before going to sleep. I was pretty annoyed about a situation with a person (yes, I am being vague on purpose, but don’t worry, it’s not you). I was thinking in my head about the frustrating things they had done, and had a great, juicy grievance to declare. You know those ones where you craft the words carefully, as if you would say it to the person’s face? It was one of those. It was on the tip of my tongue and would make me feel so much better once I’d got it out there. And I was only going to say it to Jonathan, no one else would hear. I was just about to speak when I felt a gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit that this wouldn’t be such a good idea.
So I paused for a moment. I tried to keep those words from bursting out. But it was hard work, and I really was annoyed. Besides, only Jonathan (and Holy Spirit) were listening. So I just blurted it out, “I can’t believe the way that they...”
Phew. That felt better. But then something happened. Suddenly, out came 10 other petty things that had frustrated me. I didn’t even think those frustrations existed. I opened the door for one, and a whole pile of irritated thoughts and feelings walked in and started hanging out, making me feel really uncomfortable. Where did they come from? I didn’t invite them.
A Grey Area
That moment got me thinking about the power I have in what I say (or don’t say). I certainly believe that out of the mouth the heart speaks. So the things I said in that moment must have been brewing in my thoughts somewhere. But I would rather not have said them. For one, I felt bad that Jonathan had to hear it. Also, I know that there is power in the things that I declare. Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything. Maybe I should have just kept it in.
This is where it became a bit of a grey area for me. I know that my words are powerful, but I’m also pretty certain that I shouldn’t bottle things up. That just leads to more hurt and perhaps a worse verbal-explosion later on. If there is frustration in our hearts, what do we do with it?
To Vent or Not to Vent?
That is the question. Sorry, I lied. I actually don’t think that is the question. Expressing what we’re feeling is good for us, so I think the question really is: When do we unload our emotions? And what is the purpose in it?
So let’s look at question 1: When do we vent?
Have you ever had a chat with someone where it feels less like you’re having a friendly conversation over coffee, but more like they are slowly backing up a truckload of their personal trash and dumping it all over you, leaving you to clean up the mess? Not too fun.*
Personally, I don’t want to do that to others. I know it’s important to share my feelings, but there are times when I just need to be cross, and I don’t think Starbucks is always the place for that.
Psalms says, “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” (Psalm 55:22 NIV)
This is a big clue for where to let go of all that is bothering you on the inside. Unload to God. He’s really understanding, He knows the situation, and He can handle all of our emotions. Nothing takes Him by surprise. I know some people that choose to write out their anger in black marker (for extra effect), some people run it off, some people go and shout somewhere that no one will hear them. Find what works for you, but in your frustration make sure you’re not hurting yourself, anyone else, or anything of value.
*As a side note, if you find yourself in this situation, I’d suggest that you don’t actually need to carry other people’s burdens for them. Jesus is much better at it than you (here’s proof).
Question 2: What’s the purpose in venting?
There are some days when you get a load off your chest and it feels really good. Other days it doesn’t help and you just feel worse. I’ve found out that one way to get a good result every time is to vent with a purpose. And that purpose is forgiveness.
Communicate the injustice you feel to the Father. Let Him into your heart, into the middle of the situation. And in all your humanness and emotion and probable lack of desire to do it, choose to forgive. That’s the place where forgiveness is powerful, because it’s connected to the deep places of our hearts. Besides, God is amazing at forgiveness, so getting open and vulnerable with Him is going to help.
“The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4 NIV) The Bible is pretty clear that our words and declarations are powerful. So which ones do we invite?
- If your tongue can be a tree of life, how can you use it to bring life to yourself and others?
- Does it make a difference if you speak out truth instead of just thinking it?
- Does it make a difference when you physically speak out forgiveness when it’s really hard to feel it?