One day, on television, I watched the famous comedian Jonathan Winters speak openly about his abusive childhood. He recalled how his father had beaten him severely, in addition to other forms of abuse. Then Winters said something I’ll never forget.
He told the interviewer he would gladly take a physical beating over a verbal one anytime. The scars of verbal abuse he suffered from his father were much worse than the physical scars.
Words can be powerful.
According to the Bible, the universe and everything within it was created by God’s spoken words. In like manner, much of the private world surrounding each of us has been created by words we believed—whether those words were our own or were spoken by others.
Consider Proverbs 18:20–21 — “From the fruit of his mouth a man’s stomach is filled; with the harvest from his lips he is satisfied. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (NIV)
Words possess incredible power: the power to wound or the power to heal, the power to destroy or the power to build up.
We must discipline ourselves to use words that strengthen, encourage and heal. Why? Because in a marriage, any frustrations or hurts will tempt us to wage war on our spouse.
Husbands and wives can become experts at launching verbal missiles.
Early in our marriage, I am ashamed to say, I verbally abused Karen. I would shoot her down with cutting, sarcastic and belittling words. Ultimately, the Holy Spirit convicted me of this behavior. I repented and asked Karen for forgiveness.
She did forgive me, offering a true example of grace. I didn’t deserve her forgiveness, but I treasured it. It was something she was only able to do with God’s help. She later told me that nothing I had ever done in our marriage had hurt her as deeply as the harsh words I’d spoken to her.
Think about the words you speak to your spouse. Are they giving life or death to your marriage?
Not only must we understand the incredible power of words in relation to marriage, but we must also understand that they impact our relationship with God. One day, we must account to God for every single word we speak.
“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken,” Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew. “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37, NIV).
If you have spoken words you know to have been unclean or harmful, don’t just repent to your spouse. Repent to God. Confess that sin and ask His forgiveness.
In this life, you will reap the bitter harvest of the seeds your sinful mouth has sewn—whether in your relationship with God, with your spouse, or with your children. Repent. Seek forgiveness. And then let the words of your mouth be positive, healthy, and life-giving.