One of the greatest challenges of marriage is how you speak to your spouse.

by Dave Boehi

Direct Link to Article on FamilyLife: The Power of Words

I was out walking in my neighborhood this morning, and for the first five
minutes I was lost in thought about a challenge I was facing. Or perhaps it’s
more accurate to say that I was in the dumps—wishing I didn’t have to deal with
it at all. I felt tense and irritable.

I passed a man who was dragging some trash out to the end of his driveway,
and I nodded hello. Then he made a simple comment that changed my day:
“Beautiful morning for a walk, isn’t it?”

“Sure is,” I replied automatically. “It’s perfect.”

Then I looked around and thought, This is a beautiful
The temperature was a refreshing 65 degrees—not too hot or cold.
No wind. It was quiet enough to hear birds chirping everywhere.

My mood totally changed, and I began rejoicing in the day God had given me. I
didn’t come up with any solutions to the issue that troubled me, but I felt
differently about it.

In fact, I’ve been in a positive mood ever since. And it all started when a
complete stranger said something positive.

It reminded me of the power of our words. Using that power for good is one of
the most critical challenges of married life.

The Bible often speaks of the power of the “tongue,” and the difficulty of
controlling it. Look at James 3:5-10:

So also the tongue is a small part of
the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set
aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of
iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire
body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For
every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is
tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it
is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and
Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God;
from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things
ought not to be this way.&rdquo

Each day, you and your spouse decide how you will talk to each other. Will
you build each other up with your words, or tear each other down? How will you
speak to each other in public, and in private? What words will you use as you
work through conflict?

In their book, Building Your Mate’s Self-Esteem, Dennis and Barbara
Rainey say, “Words are like seeds. Once planted in your mate’s life, your words
will bring forth flowers or weeds, health or disease, healing or poison. You
carry a great responsibility for their use. As Proverbs 18:21 warns: ‘Death and
life are in the power of the tongue.’ Your words have the power to contaminate a
positive self-image or to heal the spreading malignancy of a negative one.”

The Raineys describe one marriage that was damaged by a husband who failed to
understand the power of his words:

We know of one husband, for example,
who feels his wife needs to become more organized. She is people-oriented, known
for her compassionate spirit, but she is not a natural housekeeper. In addition,
she has her hands full taking care of their four children.

The husband writes up lists of tasks
for her to complete and calls her several times a day to check on her progress
and also to add to her list. If she falls behind, he hits her with a barrage of
withering criticism. He often loses his temper when she fails to complete her
tasks. Worse, when they visit friends’ homes, he asks, “Why can’t you keep our
place as clean as this?”

What do you think has happened to this
woman’s self-esteem over a decade of marriage? The person she loves most will
not accept her for what she does best. She is loved by her friends, and could
have a wonderful ministry helping others in need—if only her husband would set
her free. His words of criticism and control have left deep wounds which may
take years to heal.

I’ve got a challenge for you. What is something positive and encouraging that
you could say to your spouse today? What words can you use to lift his or her
spirit? What words of praise can you speak? How can you point each other to the
truth of God’s Word and His promises?

If a stranger could lift my spirits with one off-hand comment, think of the
power your words could have in your home.

Copyright © 2008 by FamilyLife.  All rights reserved.

This article originally appeared in the May 19, 2008 issue of
Marriage Memo, a weekly e-newsletter.