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Our Words--Harmful or Helpful?

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Our Words--Harmful or Helpful?

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Our Words--Harmful or Helpful?

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Can you go through a day without saying an unkind word? Are you aware that often some of the worst sins that we can commit are with our tongue. One of the keys to enjoying life and seeing good fruit is how we use our tongue.

Transcript

Joseph Telushkin wrote a book titled Words That Hurt, Words That Heal. At his seminars, he will ask, "Can you go for 24 hours without saying any unkind words about or to anybody?" And, invariably, someone at the seminar will say, "I can go for 24 hours without saying any unkind words." And he, then, asks them if they live alone. Of course, we laugh; but quite a large number of people would say, "No, I couldn't go for 24 hours and not say something that might hurt someone." And, remember, that would go for words you would say to your spouse, to your children, to your workmates, your neighbors, your friends—anybody.

If you were asked to go for 24 hours without having a beer or a glass of whisky {and you couldn't}, we'd say, "Well, maybe you have an alcohol problem." And, similarly, if we can't go for 24 hours without saying any unkind words about others, then we've lost control of our words. Now, think about your own life. Unless you've been the victim of some kind of terrible violence, chances are the worst pain you've felt has been from words used cruelly. One reason that many people often use words irresponsibly and cruelly is that they regard the injuries inflicted as intangible and, therefore, they minimize the damage they can inflict. And, so, for generations and generations, children taunted by their playmates on the school playground have been taught to respond, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me." And in our hearts we all know that this saying is not true.

The national committee for the prevention of child abuse has compiled a list of disparaging comments made by angry parents to children. Here is a short part of that list that I compiled:

You're pathetic.
You can't do anything right.
You disgust me. Just shut up.
Hey stupid, don't you know how to listen?
You're more trouble than you're worth.
Get out of here. I'm sick of looking at your face.

And one parent was recorded saying, I wish you were never born.

Now, does anybody really believe that a child raised like that believes that "sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me"? Obviously not. But as powerful as the capacity of words to hurt, is their ability to heal and inspire and lift up.

There's an anonymous medieval text titled, Orhot Tzaddikim, which means, The Ways of the Righteous, and in that is a quote about the evils routinely committed in peoples' speech. The Ways of the Righteous says, "With the tongue, one can commit numerous great and mighty transgressions, such as informing, talebearing, mockery, flattery, and telling lies; but, then," the author reminds his readers, "with the tongue, one can also perform limitless acts of virtue."

The tongue can certainly be a two-edged sword, can't it? For good or bad.

Let's turn to Psalm 34 as we get into the sermon here today. Psalm 34 and verse 12. Let's take a look here at some words from the psalmist.

Psalms 34:12-13 Psalms 34:12-13 [12] What man is he that desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? [13] Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking guile.
American King James Version×
- Who is the man who desires life...obviously that would be all of us, wanting life...and loves many days, that he may see good? We all want to live a long, prosperous life. Well, the answer is in verse 13: Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.

So, one of the keys to enjoying life and seeing good fruit is how we use our tongue. This morning we're going to take a closer look at our words; and during this time of Unleavened Bread, this time of sincerity and truth, we'll see how words can harm but also how words can help. I've titled this sermon, Our Words - Harmful or Helpful?

First, let's look at some words that are harming words. We'll start there. British philosopher, Bertrand Russell, once noted, "Nobody ever gossips about other peoples' secret virtues. What is most impressive to most of us about other people is their character flaws and private scandals, not their virtues." You see, we've got it all backwards, haven't we? Talebearing and slander is often at the root of harmful words, and this sermon today is not going to focus on slander. I'm going to look at a couple of other aspects of harmful words, because, after all, one of the most devastating ways we can sin is with our words. And this week we're concentrating on putting sin out, so I believe it's a helpful subject for us as we go through this week of Unleavened Bread and focus on sincerity and truth and a time of speaking proper words and beautiful words.

1. The Danger of Angry Words

I have an interesting example for you in I Samuel 18, in verse 20. The Bible almost always describes romantic love from the male's perspective. We're told that Isaac loved Rebekah, Jacob loved Rachel, and Samson loved Delilah. In the entire Bible, there is only one woman whose love for a man is recorded. And here it is in I Samuel 18:20, where we read:

I Samuel 18:20 - Now Michal, Saul's daughter, loved David...

Now, as we go through the story here, a short time later Michal's father, afraid that David would take the throne of Israel, plotted to kill him. Saul plotted to kill David, and Michal helped David escape by lowering him from a window; and she, then, confused Saul's hired assassins by placing a human image, topped with hair and dressed in clothes, in David's bed. You may remember the story from I Samuel, chapter 19. And by the time the would-be killers realized Michal's ruse, her beloved was far away; and David escaped. Although the Bible never reports that David reciprocated Michal's love, we do know that he risked his life in one-on-one battle with 200 Philistines for her hand in marriage. That's in I Samuel 18:25-29.

Now, look at I Samuel 18:28.

I Samuel 18:28 - Thus Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David, and that Michal, Saul's daughter, loved him...

Later, when David spent years hiding from King Saul, Saul married off Michal—still David's wife—to another man. Although many husbands would have left a wife who had agreed to such an arrangement, when David became King, he restored Michal as his queen. And, so, they had a good relationship; and the Bible records Michal loved David, the only case recorded in the Bible of a woman's love toward a man. No doubt there were others, but it's the only one we find recorded.

Yet, despite the intense love at the relationship's outset, David and Michal's marriage becomes, perhaps, one of the saddest in the Bible. And within a few years, this once-devoted couple became totally estranged. David and Michal both suffered from the same character flaw—a sharp tongue, angry words which they refused to control when they got upset; and our first point here is, the danger of angry words.

The Bible describes the incident that triggered the end of their love as a celebration, actually, is when it took place. Very ironic. David was supervising the return of the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. The Philistines had captured the ark many years earlier; now the ark was coming back to Jerusalem. In an outburst of joy, David danced passionately, even wildly, in front of thousands of his subjects; and watching the whole scene from a palace window was the queen, Michal. And she was disgusted by the spectacle of a monarch carrying on with such reckless abandon. And so, when David returned to the palace, she had a couple of words for him.

Look at II Samuel, chapter 6, beginning in verse 14, and we will read through verse 20:

II Samuel 6:14-15 - Then David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet.

Verse 16 - Now as the ark of the Lord came into the City of David, Michal, Saul's daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart.

Verses 17-19 - So they brought the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place in the midst of the tabernacle that David had erected for it. Then David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. And when David had finished offering burnt offerings and peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts. Then he distributed among all the people, among the whole multitude of Israel, both the women and the men, to everyone a loaf of bread, a piece of meat, and a cake of raisins. So all the people departed, everyone to his house.

And now, here's verse 20 - Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, "How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!"

Now, were Michal's withering remarks justified? May be. Had David truly acted in a manner that diminished the dignity of his office? Perhaps! But whether or not Michal was right, her tactless criticism of her husband on this great day in his life turned the dispute into a gale force fury. But Michal's attack at the king was only the first factor in the tragedy that ensued; and in the face of his wife's scorn, David didn't remain silent, didn't walk away and cool off, or wait till the tension eased, or even try to defend his behavior. Instead, he responded with something completely out of left field that had nothing to do with the situation at all. He mustered the cruelest counterattack he could think of.

Verse 21 - So David said to Michal, "It was before the Lord, who chose me instead of your Dad and all his house, to appoint ME ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel. Therefore I will play music whenever I feel like it!"

You see, David's words in no way addressed the substance of Michal's critique; and as many of us do when we're criticized, we go straight for blood. "What's the worst thing I can think of to say right now?" Attacking the most painful event in Michal's life, which was God's rejection of her father, and then, of course, his subsequent death along with three of her brothers who also died at the hands of the Philistines. And now, notice verse 23, the Bible records:

II Samuel 6:23 - Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.

Why is Michal's childlessness recorded at this point in the story? Perhaps because after such a brutal exchange—and maybe there were even others that are not recorded—Michal and David were never again intimate.

The Bible's point is as clear today as it was in 1,000 B.C. If a husband or a wife or two siblings or two friends do not restrain their words when they are angry, love may not survive, no matter how deeply the two people cared for one another beforehand. The ability to control what we say when we're angry is a prerequisite for a lasting relationship. The danger of angry words.

Here's a rule that is good to keep in mind and maybe something that would have helped King David and his queen do better in this regard, and that is:

Limit the expression of your anger to the incident that provoked it. Don't come out of left field with something completely off the subject that you know will hurt. Limit the expression of your anger to the incident that's being discussed.

What David did wrong was to attack Michal at her point of greatest vulnerability. His words were designed and calculated to humiliate and devastate her. And to bring another person's vulnerability into an argument is wrong. So limit your concerns to the incident that caused you to get upset. Had David and Michal abided by this rule, they may have fought about the issue that provoked their anger, but maybe their relationship would have stayed intact. And, of course, we all know and remember that God Himself is slow to anger, something that we can all learn from, too. So be careful of angry words.

2. The Danger of Keeping Anger Bottled Up

Now, while we should not go into a rage, the flip side of expressing too much anger is not getting upset at all when something happens. Many of us, when injured, tend to withdraw from the person who has hurt us, rather than address the issue, get it up on the table and resolve it.

I have another example for you in II Samuel, chapter 13, this time. It's the story of two half brothers, Amnon and Absalom, who were both sons of King David to different mothers—half brothers. In one of the Bible's unhappiest episodes, Amnon rapes and then abandons Absalom's sister, Tamar, so Tamar is Amnon's half sister. Afterward, Absalom never confronts his brother, doesn't say anything about it.

II Sam. 13:22 - And Absalom spoke to his brother Amnon neither good nor bad. For Absalom hated Amnon, because he had forced his sister Tamar.

Ultimately, as we read the story, after two years have passed, Absalom arranges to have Amnon murdered. His anger finally reached that point.

II Sam. 13:23 - And it came to pass, after two full years, that Absalom had sheepshearers in Baal Hazor, which is near Ephraim; so Absalom invited all the king's sons.

It was a setup.

Verse 28 - Now Absalom had commanded his servants, saying, "Watch now, when Amnon's heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon!' then kill him. Do not be afraid. Have I not commanded you? Be courageous and valiant."

Verse 29 - So the servants of Absalom did to Amnon as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king's sons arose, and each one got on his mule and fled.

So whether or not Amnon deserved to die is beside the point, but what can be deduced in this story is that a person who remains unnaturally silent when an expression of anger is called for might later explode even into a murderous rage. Of course, most of us suffer much less grievous provocations than this; and rather than overreacting to them by going out and wanting to kill someone, we nurse our injuries quietly, in silence. Maybe we talk about them to other people who cannot help, or inflict our anger on other innocent people, rather than going and addressing the situation with the person who offended us. So the moral of this story here is, always address your grievances to the source and don't put it off for two years! Much wisdom is in a very short, four-line poem by William Blake. In this four-line poem, he says:

A very wise four lines. If we have reason to be angry with someone, we should address it with them, not keep it bottled up; and as Paul wrote in Ephesians, brethren, Be angry and do not sin and do not let the sun go down on your wrath. So this implies that we deal with our anger and our emotions in a timely fashion, not stew over it for two years, as Absalom did; but maybe take care of it, even, the same day, before the sun goes down. So there is a time to express our feelings in an appropriate way, without keeping it bottled up for an inordinate amount of time.

3. Offering Criticism

In our closest relationships, we often have the reason—even the obligation—to offer criticism to a friend, to a brother, whether it is to express justified anger, to protect others from being harmed, or to benefit another person; and the Bible does include offering critique and criticism to others in its commandments. One person once added up that there are 613 commandments in the Bible, and offering criticism is one of them. A commandment!

Leviticus 19, there is a time for this in our words. Leviticus 19, verse 16, we'll read verses 16-18 here:

Leviticus 19:16-18 Leviticus 19:16-18 [16] You shall not go up and down as a talebearer among your people: neither shall you stand against the blood of your neighbor; I am the LORD. [17] You shall not hate your brother in your heart: you shall in any wise rebuke your neighbor, and not suffer sin on him. [18] You shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
American King James Version×
- You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people... not supposed to be a tattletale or a gossiper...nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord. Verse 17, You shall not hate your brother in your heart as well. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. So what does this mean, "You shall surely rebuke your neighbor and not bear sin because of him"? And then, verse 18, You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself..."

So in loving our neighbor as our self, there is a time, though, too, for rebuke. Some scholars interpret the commandment's words in verse 17, "Incur no guilt because of him," or "not bear sin because of him," as obliging us to speak up when we know something's not right, lest we also share in the responsibility for someone else's destructive behavior. We don't want to be, you know, an accessory to the sin or to what's going on. There are times when we have to speak up, when we have to say something; but it must be done, in verse 18, in a loving and kind manner, Love your neighbor as yourself.

There's a second interpretation here, "Incur no sin because of him," or "incur no guilt because of him," that has been offered by a number of writers; and it is that, "although you're permitted and sometimes obligated to correct a friend or to give some critique back, it is sinful to do it in a demeaning or humiliating manner," is how some writers put this. Like public humiliation or something like that. The wounds of public humiliation are very hard to heal, so it's something you go to your brother in confidence with, in private. So be careful how you offer criticism. You do it in a loving manner. But there are times when you have to do that.

That leads us to the fourth point—which is for us—and that is, handling criticism.

4. Handling Criticism

How do we take it when a friend comes to us and wants to offer a little helpful advice? Proverbs 28, verse 23. Most of us can tell the difference between unproductive rebukes and well-intentioned ones, when someone really is trying to help us out; but even loving and well-intentioned criticism—especially when it is loving, because it is probably most inclined to highlight our true faults—can be a bitter pill to swallow.

Proverbs 28:23 Proverbs 28:23He that rebukes a man afterwards shall find more favor than he that flatters with the tongue.
American King James Version×
- He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward than he who flatters with the tongue.

After awhile you get to know when it's just flattering praise. You can find more favor with someone, in the long run, if you're truly helping them. Many people, when criticized, fight back by saying, "Do you think I've got a bad temper? At least it hasn't alienated me from my children like your children are alienated from you!" Or, "You think I treated you unfairly in that deal? Well, it so happens that my reputation for honesty is higher than yours! If you think I'm exaggerating, maybe you should ask some other people what they think!" No, you need to take the criticism and see if it really does apply to you.

Keep in mind that even if our friend possesses the flaws of which we accuse him, so what? If what he says about us is true, the fact that he himself has numerous flaws at that moment is irrelevant. We grow by hearing what our friends are saying and learning to distinguish what's true from what's false. We certainly don't grow if we only listen to people who just offer us praise!

Proverbs 10, let's go to another proverb here, Proverbs 10, verse 17:

Proverbs 10:17 Proverbs 10:17He is in the way of life that keeps instruction: but he that refuses reproof errs.
American King James Version×
- He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, but he who refuses correction goes astray.

Do you want to live, or do you want to go astray? Don't refuse correction.

Let's go a page forward, Proverbs 12, verse 1:

Proverbs 12:1 Proverbs 12:1Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge: but he that hates reproof is brutish.
American King James Version×
- Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction, as the New King James says, is stupid. And the Authorized Version says is brutish.

I think "stupid" brings it up to date.

Proverbs 9, verse 8, the second part:

Proverbs 9:8 Proverbs 9:8Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate you: rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.
American King James Version×
- ...Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.

We all want to be considered wise, don't we? If you want to be considered wise, accept rebuke and appreciate it! Of course, there's a good chance that the person criticizing us has numerous faults. Indeed, they might even be guilty of the very same flaw that they're pointing out in us. But we should quash such thoughts as, "What gives her the right to criticize me? Look at her fangs!" What we should ask is, is what she's saying true, not whether it applies to her as well. And even if the point is exaggerated, there is no reason to reject everything that's being said. We should ask, "Is there some validity to the criticism? Can I take what was said and use it to improve myself?" Because only someone who is already perfect doesn't need to learn how to accept criticism! And that certainly doesn't include any of us, so learn how to accept criticism, not only how to give it.

5. Words with our Children

The European scholar named Johann Paul Frederick who wrote two hundred years ago, If a child tells a lie, tell him that he's told a lie, but don't call him a liar. You see, what you do is you say that their whole life is a lie when you call them a liar. Tell them they've told a lie. By restricting criticism to the specific act, the parent is unlikely to damage the child's full self-worth. It reminds me of our suggestion to King David and his queen to limit the expression of your criticism to the incident that provoked it. "You just lied. That's not acceptable in our household," when you're talkingwith your children. Admittedly, finding the perfect mean between being critical but not overly uncritical can be difficult for parents. It's easy to vacillate between broad and destructive comments to our children and the other extreme of tolerating behavior that shouldn't be tolerated at all. Parents commonly err not only in criticizing harshly but also in forgetting to offer any thanks or praise. In words with our children, we have to balance the good with the bad. It doesn't matter how old our kids are, they still need kind words.

In the publication, Signs of the Times, the religious writer Gottfried Von Kronenberger relates an incident about a young mother who said this to her minister, to her pastor. She says:

This story actually reminds me of a story—I hope my mother's not listening in here to this—I think I was about six or seven years old; and when I was six or seven, I got spankings every day! I was a troublemaker. I was always outside the fence, I was always across the creek, you know...and finally one day I made it through the day without getting one spanking. And at the very end of the day when going to bed, my Mom scolded me for something. I don't even remember what it was anymore, but I was mortified that she hadn't noticed that I had made it that far through the day.

You see, parents' words can be much more powerful than we realize. The common parental formula of heavy on the criticism and light on the praise can cause children to go through life feeling inadequate and unloved. One psychologist advises parents, mothers and fathers, in this way. He says, If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others. Grandparents are good at that, aren't they, with the grandchildren.

So, Colossians 3 is a good passage to turn to here. Colossians 3, verses 20-21:

Colossians 3:20-21 Colossians 3:20-21 [20] Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing to the Lord. [21] Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.
American King James Version×
- Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

So we have to find a way to encourage our children as we lead them and train them as they grow up.

Another way in which parents can verbally hurt their children is through comparisons. Be very careful of comparisons amongst your children. "Your brother never spills things. He tries to be careful. Why don't you?" "Your sister always says ‘please' and ‘thank you.' I wish you'd be more polite and considerate like her." "Your brother and sister don't get into trouble in school. You're the only one that's always causing us aggravation." You see, these kinds of comparisons can easily spring to our lips. How many women would appreciate being told by their husbands, "Tom's wife Mary also has a fulltime job, but she doesn't go around complaining all the time about how overworked she is." And how many men would like to hear their bosses say, "If you'd only learn to be more like Bill, to be more precise and innovative in your work." We have to be very careful with comparisons amongst our kids. In addition, comparing children undermines family unity. This type of competition rarely brings out the best in anyone and increases the likelihood that such children will not be close to each other when they grow up.

Can you think of a Biblical story along this vein? Genesis 37, verse 3. The Bible tells us that Jacob loved Joseph more than his other sons and made no effort to disguise his favoritism. He even had a special and exceedingly beautiful coat of many colors woven for Joseph.

Genesis 37:3-4 Genesis 37:3-4 [3] Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colors. [4] And when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.
American King James Version×
- Now Israel, Jacob, loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age. Also he made him a tunic of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him. No kind words for their young brother.

Verses 19-20 - Then they said to one another, "Look, this dreamer is coming! Come therefore, let us now kill him and cast him into some pit; and we shall say, ‘Some wild beast has devoured him.' We shall see what will become of his dreams!"

Of course, Joseph didn't help things either, the way he reacted with his brothers beforehand, telling them he was going to be their leader one day. But this and other acts of favoritism helped inflame Jacob's other sons against Joseph; and eventually they sold him as a slave into Egypt, telling their father that a wild animal had killed him.

Many children grow up having been deeply hurt by their parents' words; and by the time they become adolescents and adults, these kids have learned how to fight back, also with words. It can be quite hurtful to parents as their children grow up and learn to fight back with words and hurt their parents in turn, and usually the kids can have pretty great success at hurting their parents.

There's a book titled, My Daddy Was a Pistol and I'm a Son of a Gun. The author's dead now, Lewis Grizzard. He recalls going through his father's meager possessions at the hospital when his Dad died; and in the dead man's coat, Grizzard found a letter that his Dad had evidently been carrying around with him for a long time. So here are Grizzard's Dad's possessions after he died, and this is what he found:

Look at I Thessalonians, chapter 2, for a minute, in verse 10. This shows how parents and children are to interact. It is an example, of course, for the church; but it applies to fathers, parents and their children. Paul writes here:

I Thessalonians 2:10-12 - You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

So how should a father interact with his own children? Exhort them, comfort them, and instruct them. There's quite a balance there in the approach. Exhort, comfort, and charge, as the New King James says. So, be careful about words with our children. Strike a balance, as we teach, instruct, and urge them to grow up in the way of God.

Let's look at some helping words for a minute here now. Some helping words, and point six here is:

6. Kind Words

Art Buchwald, the humorist, wrote an excellent column about saying a few kind words, and it's reprinted in a book called The World of the High Holy Days, a book by Jack Riemer. Let me read you a quote from Art Buchwald. Here's what he says. This is about saying a few kind words:

Proverbs 19, verse 22, look at how these two proverbs expound upon kind words.

Proverbs 19:22 Proverbs 19:22The desire of a man is his kindness: and a poor man is better than a liar.
American King James Version×
- What is desired in a man is kindness, and a poor man is better than a liar.

So what people wish for, look for in a man, is kindness. Kind words. We appreciate it, don't we?

Proverbs 31:26 Proverbs 31:26She opens her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.
American King James Version×
- The Proverbs 31 woman: She opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.

The Proverbs 31 woman, on her tongue is the law of kindness.

And so, we recognize the healing potential of words; but sometimes we're a little stingy in offering them. We don't say those kind words when we should. We don't, you know, do it often enough.

Here's another quote from the book, The World of the High Holy Days. It's a poem called, Things You Didn't Do, describing the regrets of a woman who realized too late how stingy she had been in saying kind words and sharing her thanks. The story goes like this:

You'd better make sure you get those words in when you can and not wait too long.

II Thessalonians, chapter 1, verse 3. Once again, the example from the apostle Paul, II Thessalonians, chapter 1, and verse 3, Paul says to the brethren:

II Thessalonians 1:3 - We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other...

So, Paul even let them know that he was thanking God for them and for the love that they were showing toward each other, so don't forget the value of kind words before it might be too late.

And then, final point, number 7, saying I'm sorry.

7. Saying "I'm Sorry"

An additional indispensable phrase to any person who wishes to heal hurt that he or she might have caused someone, is saying, "I'm sorry," genuinely. Yet, for many people, "I'm sorry" or admitting that we've been wrong is some of the hardest words to say, because when you apologize, you admit you were wrong. It's hard to do. We've all heard of feuds between siblings or close friends, quarrels that lasted for years, which could have been brought to an immediate end if only one side had said, "I'm sorry." Of course, you've heard of the Hatfields and the McCoys. That wasn't too far from here, was it?

Think of someone who has made you angry. In most cases, if that person came to your house and genuinely and sincerely expressed his or her remorse and sorrow at the hurt they had caused you, you would be moved. It takes humility to apologize.

A final scripture, Isaiah 57 and verse 15. Let's turn over there for a moment. It takes humility to apologize, to say we're sorry and to admit that we may have been wrong. Isaiah 57:15 Isaiah 57:15For thus said the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
American King James Version×
, this is an attitude that God really appreciates:

Isaiah 57:15 Isaiah 57:15For thus said the high and lofty One that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
American King James Version×
- For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, the Great God: "I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

That's who God, the Almighty God of the entire Universe, likes to dwell with—the humble and contrite ones—those that have humility, those who can even admit when they've done something wrong. It takes humility to admit being wrong and to apologize, and God appreciates such an attitude.

And so, to recap, anger is a very common, powerful emotion. Yet, as difficult as it is to control what makes us angry, we can generally control how we express our feelings and how we express that anger. If we've made comments while angry that we subsequently regretted or that might have ended a relationship, remember the simple rule that may well help guarantee that we don't do it again, and that is: Limit the expression of your anger to the incident that provoked it; and, above all, remember that the most important person with whom you should speak is the one with whom you are angry.

Regarding criticism, we should regard those who criticize us fairly and constructively with the same thankfulness we feel toward a physician who has diagnosed an ailment that we have. Without the diagnosis by the doctor, we might remain sick and even get sicker. Without our friend's words, we might deteriorate more spiritually and ethically. So when someone criticizes you, resist the temptation to point out similar or other flaws in them, whether they exist or not. Instead, ask yourself, "Is what he or she is saying true? Is there something I can take from that to make myself a better person, to improve myself?"

And, finally, remember to praise our children, when appropriate, to balance out those times when we must be corrective. And use those kind, healing words that can make a person's day, including thank you and I'm sorry.

The scriptures are filled with such admonitions we can take to heart during the Days of Unleavened Bread, because this week we are concentrating on putting sin out; and remember that often some of the worst sins that we can commit are with our tongue. We are to be putting on the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth—beautiful words. So let's see how much progress we can continue to make this week.

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Comments

  • vince thompson
    Great message Peter! I particularly liked your use of the David and Machal example. Very insightful! Too bad more didn't heed the "I'm sorry" use of the tongue during the time you gave this message. I am studying the proper use of the tongue with an emphasis on how the tongues use reflects on it's owner, either positively or negatively. Thanks for your help! Best regards to you and yours, vince thompson
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