“Death and life are in the power of the tongue,And those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs18:21
One of my sons has a struggle with his tongue. While he is typically respectful and kind, he tends to say things that he shouldn’t, or not say things when he should.
If you know me well, you know that he is Just Like Me in this way, and we struggle with other similar issues. And because I’ve seen the damage in my own life – or, more specifically, in my relationships with others – I need to be diligent to engage him in this area.
Five areas that I’ve seen him use his tongue in damaging ways are: Boasting, Correcting, Tricking, Manipulating, and Ignoring.
All parents think their children are geniuses, right? I get that. But this child is especially smart. And in my sneaky pride, I can slip in a humblebrag -- about he is like me in this area, too.“Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.” I Corinthians 8:1
Being smart is not the problem. The problem is that he knows he is smart, and that’s our fault. We’ve told him that over and over. (We should have been praising him for his hard work, strategies, and persistence, instead of praising him for his God-given talents. But that’s another blog for another day.)
He has lots of knowledge, but he needs to know that love is more precious than knowledge. I tell him that he will most likely struggle with the pride of knowledge his entire life. I tell him that he gets it honest, from me.
To counter this, he has to humbly realize that any skills are gifts from God. Additionally, he must diligently try to not make others feel inferior because of his greater knowledge. These are similar to the pieces of advice that Pele’s father gave him:
- remember you have a gift from God,
- respect other, and
- work hard (be a steward of your gift).
"Let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth." Jeremiah 9:24
Similar to the sin of boasting, my son also has a tendency to correct others. Sometimes when I point this out to him, he explains that he’s trying to help others."You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye." Matthew7:5
That may be true in some instances, but, as I explain to him, he needs to examine his motivations for why he is correcting. When the pattern is that he corrects repeatedly and incessantly (recently, I had to warn and rebuke him three times in a span of less than 10 minutes), I am sure that he is not pausing to question his own heart before he speaks.
Furthermore, there are times when he “corrects” but his facts are flat-out wrong. I explain that not only could he be hurting others with how he corrects, but he looks foolish in doing so when he’s not right.
"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool." Shakespeare (As You Like It)
— Joey Espinosa (@EspinosaJoey) April 6, 2014
How are we working on this? Even how we phrase our correction makes a difference. Instead of stating a fact, it sounds more winsome and humble to say, “I think . . . .” There are other ways to genuinely help someone, without coming across as a know-it-all (although you wouldn't learn that by watching me).
And another way that his heart is revealed in this area is how he responds to my correction. He needs to receive my (or my wife’s, or anyone else’s) correction with humility. Often, he tries to cope by making jokes or playing it off, making light of our instruction and correction. Instead, he needs to respond by turning to the gospel of grace and mercy, finding satisfaction and life in Jesus alone.
"A wise son accepts his father's discipline,But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke." Proverbs 13:1
Tricking and Joking
And speaking of joking . . . this is yet another issue that my son has inherited from me. You’d think I’d be writing this blog post about myself. But that stings too much."Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and deathis the man who deceives his neighborand says, 'I am only joking!'" Proverbs 26:18-19
I’m not proud of it, but sometimes I think that sarcasm is my love language. (I should repent, but joking about it is so much easier.)
Don’t get me wrong. I love a good joke, and I love that my children love humor. So, I’m not concerned with the action, but the patterns and the motivations behind the joking and tricking.
Here’s the issue: Our words have value. But if we waste them, they are worth less and less.
Let’s have fun, but not at the constant expense of others. Instead of always joking about others, there is value in my son (and most of us) having a healthy dose of self-depreciation. If your humor is always at the expense of others, that probably shows the depth of pride in your heart. (The same can be said if your humor is always at your own expense, but that's also another blog post for another day.)
Don’t let our speech grow worthless. The pattern of our speech does not need to be us being funny and having the last word.
More to Come . . . No JokingI think I’ve given us enough to digest for a day or two. At the least, I need to consider these words for my own life. Come back for the next post, where I will cover the last two areas of damaging speech, plus explain the core issue behind it all.
**image courtesy of ilco via Free Images