The Deadly Poison of Putdowns

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. –Ephesians 4:29

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me.” Those words sung on every child’s playground are all too familiar to adults today. They provided protection, safety and resistance against the hurtful words of the playground bully. Putdowns like, “you’re stupid!” and, “I can’t believe you wore that!” are examples of the way kids hurt each other with their words. Even worse, is what is spoken in hushed tones in the victim’s presence. But as hurtful as these words are when they are spoken from child to child, they inflict the most damage when they are spoken from parent to child.

“Hey chubby…how ’bout another donut?” “Why can’t you be like your sister/brother?” “I can’t stand you…in fact, I can’t believe you’re my son!”

Words like this sink into the soul of a child like a deadly poison resulting in a slow death of the beautiful spirit within them. In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul commands that our words build others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “a torn jacket is soon mended, but hard words bruise the heart of a child.”

When others hear you speak to your family, specifically to your children, what do they hear? Do they hear words of encouragement, acceptance and praise, or do they hear careless words of bitterness, anger, condemnation or even worse, contempt? Paul commands us to replace anger and bitterness with kindness, compassion and forgiveness. In fact, he states that as a forgiven people, we too need to be a forgiving people. Unkind words, an unforgiving spirit and an argumentative attitude are uncharacteristic of a follower of Christ.

The truth is, words spoken in anger, haste, and carelessness often inflicts the deepest, most lasting scars. However, it is never too late to change. Words like, “I’m sorry, please forgive me” can begin the healing process. Why not start today?

1. Is my speech and action consistent with one who follows the leading of the Holy Spirit or instead, am I grieving the Holy Spirit in my words and actions?

2. What relationship in my life needs the most change in how I speak to the other person? Consider one specific way that you can “build up” that person today.

Ephesians 4:29-32; James 1:19-20, 26; Ephesians 6:4

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Leslie Snyder

Leslie is a wife, mother, youth ministry veteran and long-time member of the HomeWord daily devotional writing team. Along with her family, she lives in Walla Walla, Washington where she is the owner and personal trainer at Redefine Fitness and Nutrition.

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