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Breaking the Curse of Words, Part 2

with Tom Elliff | December 30, 2008
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Do someone’s harsh words still haunt you? Pastor Tom Elliff reveals how you can break the curse of words and live in the freedom of God’s truth.

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  • Do someone’s harsh words still haunt you? Pastor Tom Elliff reveals how you can break the curse of words and live in the freedom of God’s truth.

Do someone’s harsh words still haunt you?

Breaking the Curse of Words, Part 2

With Tom Elliff
December 30, 2008
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Bob: As hard as it is to imagine, something said in a moment, even passing, can wind up having a profound impact on another person's life.  If someone else's words have left a scar on your soul, how can you break the curse of words?  Here is counsel from Dr. Tom Elliff.

Tom: God has given every one of us, as believers, some very powerful tools, weapons, if you will, with which we can break the curse of words. 

The first thing the Lord gives us is His Word.  The Word of God is absolute authority.  It is true truth – you shall know the truth, and "The truth," the Lord Jesus said, "will make you free."

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, December 30th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll find out today how the truth of God's Word can undo the damage that's been done by someone else's words from long ago.  Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition.  I was listening to a message, I don't know, this was a number of months ago, from a pastor who lives on the East Coast, and he was talking about the power of encouraging words, especially as he works with his pastoral staff and with people in his church.

And I remember the phrase he used as he was talking about it.  He talked about recognizing and pointing out evidences of grace in someone else's life.  He talked about going up to a person and say, "You know, I just want to point out an evidence of grace, God's grace, that I have seen in your life."

And I really liked what he was saying, because he was saying you want to encourage another person without puffing them up.  What you're really pointing them to is the fact that God is at work in their life, so you're glorifying God and encouraging them at the same time by talking about these evidences of grace.  And I thought that's a great word, because we all do need the encouragement, we all need to know that somebody else is recognizing our growth and that God is at work in our lives, and they're seeing the fruit of that.  That's encouraging when we get that kind of affirmation from another person, especially when it comes from a spouse.

Dennis: Yeah, in fact, I think it's one of a wife's greatest needs – appreciation.  Many times, with Barbara, it's not that I provide the answer to her problems, it's not even that I listen to her problems – now, this is what baffles me, Bob, as a man, because you'd think, as a man, you've got it figured out that what she needs from me is to listen.  And about the time I get to that sense of security that I've got it nailed, she moves on to a new level of understanding, and she blows me away, and she wants me to appreciate her – appreciate her.

And, you know what?  I don't appreciate my wife nearly enough for all she does, and I certainly did not appreciate her enough for all she did when we had six children in 10 years, and I drug her all over the United States, and we were speaking at stuff and leaving and taking the kids with us in the car, and, I mean, you know, my wife needed a Purple Heart.  She needed some kind of decoration on her behalf for just an expression of appreciation.

Bob: Well, during that time, you and she wrote the book, "Building Your Mate's Self-Esteem," and I remember you saying in there that we need to praise specifically when we praise another person; we need to praise wisely and truthfully …

Dennis: Right.

Bob: And then we need to praise generously – not be stingy with praising another person.  One of the reasons we need to praise our mate is because, stuck in our minds, are all of the things people have said throughout the years that have been negative that we've hung onto and that have influenced and shaped our behavior.

Dennis: You know, Bob, we have a home that is – Barbara and I have created some gardens, and they're not lavish gardens.

Bob: They've very nice.  We've been out and seen them – all the day lilies.

Dennis: We've given you some day lilies, that's right, and we – the boys and I, when I was younger and when they had strong backs, built some paths just around the edge of the gardens, and we put pea gravel, real small, about the size of a pea – gravel so that we could walk around these gardens and look at them.

And Barbara and I began to notice that the paths would get weeds in them.

Bob: Sure.

Dennis: And so every spring, I would go to the nursery, and I would buy a little $7 sack of this wicked smelly stuff that you put into a spreader, and you would just walk along those trails and spread this stuff and you know what?  It kept the weeds from growing.

Now, I've thought about that many times, and I've thought, wouldn't it be wonderful in a marriage, if you could start a marriage out much like you start the spring, with some kind of spiritual word herbicide that kept negative words and all the chatter that can occur in the marriage that cuts – where we cut one another down and eliminate the weeds from growing and instead have the ability to plant those good seeds in the gardens so that you walk on the paths, weed free, enjoying the blossoms and the beauty of God's creation.

But, in marriage, unfortunately we don't spread enough of that herbicide that keeps the negative words down, and we don't certainly plant enough good seeds, and the flower seeds, praise and appreciation, in our spouse.  That's what we need to be doing today.

Bob: Yeah, and we've already heard this week in part 1 of this message from Tom Elliff about what we can do in one another's lives to try to uproot some of those weeds that have sprouted up along the way in our children's lives or in our spouse's lives, how we can undo some of the damage that's been done.  In fact, Tom talked about what they'd done, as a family, around the dinner table, and it's the kind of exercise that, really, any family can do.  Our listeners may want to listen back to yesterday's program, they can find it on our website,, and part 1 of the message is available there.  There is also a transcript of part 1 there as well.

But in this second half of the message, Tom talks about how we can control our tongues under the power of the Holy Spirit and how we can use our tongues for good and not for evil.  Let's listen together to part 2 of this message from Dr. Tom Elliff.

Tom: [from audiotape.]  It occurred to me, as I was driving home late that evening, that God has given every one of us, as believers, some very powerful tools, weapons, if you will, with which we can break the curse of words.

The first thing the Lord gives us is His Word.  "They overcame him by the Word of the Lord, the word of their testimony."  The Word of God is absolute authority.  It is true truth – "You shall know the truth, and the truth," the Lord Jesus said, "will make you free."

And so I began to line up these five statements, which I had heard and just believed without question that "I'll never," or "I can't," or "I will always."  I began to line them up next to the Word of God, and I asked about each of these statements.  Does God – is there anyplace in God's Word that says "That's true about me?"  But, do you know that I could not think of anyplace in the Word of God where it validated any of those statements.  And so on the authority of the word of God, I began to break the curse of each of those statements. 

Well, the second thing the Lord gives us is His Name – the name of Jesus, which is above every name, the Bible says.  There's an interesting passage of Scripture in Romans 8, verse 29 says that God is working to do what?  To conform us to the image of His dear Son.  He is making us Christlike.  He is working within us both the will and to do of His good pleasure, the Scripture says.

And so I asked this second question – of each of these five statements, here was the question – is this consistent with the character of God?  Is this consistent with Christ?  Is He this way?  Does He always have to do this?  Is He bound to be this?  Is this what Jesus is going to do?  If not, then I can break the curse of those words in Jesus' name because I know He is at work, by His spirit, making me like Himself.  I am being conformed to His image.

And so He is at work to refute those – to contradict those, to do away with the damage those words are doing in my life.  So on the authority of God's Word, and now in the name of Jesus I broke the curse of those words.

Well, I think you're ahead of me.  You probably can already imagine the third of those weapons that He gives us, and that's His blood, the blood of Jesus.  I asked this question relative to the blood of Jesus – I asked this question of each of those five statements – Is this a sinful characteristic that was not covered in the atonement?  Did this somehow escape the atoning work of Christ?  Because, if not, it was covered – if not, God has given me power to be cleansed of it; to be free from it.

And so on the authority of the Word of God and in the name of Jesus and because of what His shed blood represents on the cross of Calvary, His pouring out of His life so that I might be cleansed from all sin, I broke the curse of each of those statements. 

Now, I don't have time this morning to tell you about all of those statements.  I wish I did.  Let me just say this – they are so innocuous that I hear them often from other people, the "you'll never" people – the "You'll nevers" or "He'll always," "Well, he can't."  I thought I was smart enough to get by those.  I thought, "Well, you're a healthy Christian, Tom, you're a big boy.  You're mature, those are stupid things.  Just bow your neck and don't be that way," and it seems that the harder I tried and the more I bowed my neck and gritted my teeth, the more I was fulfilling the very statements that I hated, because you become like what you think about.

But that night in the car on the authority of the Word of God, in the name of Jesus who is conforming me to His image, and because of the shed of blood of Jesus, which overcomes all sin, I broke the curse of those words. 

That night, when I sat with my family, we joined hands around the table.  My future son-in-law was with us.  He also said, "Boy, I bear the brunt of that."  Some of the things that were said to him grow up – and we bowed our heads and, one at a time, on the authority of God's Word in the name of Jesus because of the shed blood of Jesus, we broke the curse of those words.

I can't tell you the freedom and the exuberance that came to my heart and to my family.  As a matter of fact, to this very day, if someone says something careless or negative, the other one is liable to retort, "Curse of words, curse of words," and we stop and say, "You know, that's true, that's true, that could be very harmful, that could be very hurtful."  We can use our words to bless, to build up, to say positive things about people, but I've never met anyone who hasn't, in some way, had to deal with the curse of words.

A couple of weeks later I was on my way to speak in Arkansas, and I stopped by Tulsa to pick up a friend of mine, a fellow minister who is just like a brother to me, and he had relatives over in that area, and we were going to go visit them, and we were driving along, and I was telling him about the revival.  I said, "My family is living in a state of revival."  I said, "I cannot tell you what God has done in my heart, in my life, over the past several weeks." 

And I began to tell him about this curse of words, which, you know, it just became sort of the statement by which we used to designate this issue, and I said, "Well, you know, let me just tell you what God's been showing me."  Well, it got real quiet in the car, and he began to look out the window and had this distant, pensive look, and he turned to me, and he said, "I've got one of those, and it's about to kill me."

I said, "Oh, come on."  He said, "No, Tom," he said, "it really is."  And the more I thought about it, the more I thought about the truth of his statement.  He said, "You know, I've been pastoring now for well over 30 years," and he said, "Our family has never taken a full two-week vacation in all that time."  He said, "As a matter of fact, I can think of a few times when we've been gone on a one-week vacation that I didn't stop everything, drive back to do a funeral or to do a wedding or to go speak at a banquet."  You know, he said "I get to the church early," he said, "I stay late," he said, "I work seven days a week at the church, I'm always there," and he said, "As you know, I've got some serious physical problems as a result of it.  As a matter of fact," he said, "You know, I've been in the hospital hemorrhaging blood on five different occasions, some of those occasions right at the point of death."  He said, "I've had to come back from vacations having lost so much blood," he said, "they've put me in the hospital to give me unit after unit after unit of blood."

And he said, "I never thought about it, but you know something?  I know when all that began."  He said, "I was going to Washita Baptist University, associate pastor of a little church in Pine Bluff, Arkansas."  He said, "They cleaned out a little broom closet and gave it to me as an office – first staff member they'd ever had."  He said, "And the preacher was really well liked across Arkansas.  He was traveling here and there all across the state," and he said "one morning, I just happened to be at the office early, I was sitting there in my little broom closet," and he said, "there were two secretaries who came in."  He said, "They had absolutely no idea that I was there, but I was listening to every word they said." 

And he said, "One secretary said to the other, 'Well, where's Brother so-and-so,' referring to the pastor, and she said, 'Well, you know, as it says in Job, running to and fro throughout the whole earth.  I have no idea where he is.'"  He said, "The other secretary then said, 'Well, I'll tell you this about Brother'" – and she called his name.  'He doesn't know a thing in the world about preaching, but at least he's always here.'"  And he said, "Tom, now that I think about it, I have been driven by that statement.  All of my life I have thought I don't have much to contribute in the way of preaching," – and the guy is an incredible preacher and student of the Word of God – brilliant communicator – but he said, "All of my life I've labored under the misconception I don't know much about preaching.  The only thing that gives me value in the ministry is to always be there even if it kills you and even if it destroys your family life."  He said, "That's got to change, doesn't it?"

And there in that car he broke the curse of those words.  I can tell you, he's a very healthy person with a very healthy family having an incredible ministry right now in another state and wakes up with joy every morning excited about the ministry that God has allowed him to perform.

Now, you know, you may not have something like that in your life.  Maybe nobody ever said anything to you about the way you looked or the way you acted or what you could do or what you couldn't do or what you'd never be able to accomplish.  Maybe you'd never say anything like that to anyone else, you know, there's another flip side to this that you ought to consider relative to your own children, the folks in your own family, your wife, your husband. 

Like I say, the curse that comes through these negative statements, in many instances, would not affect that husband or that wife or those children or even you, but it's the moment, and it's the messenger that gives them such impact.  Coming from a father or from a mother or from a husband or from a wife or from a child or from a boss or from a pastor at just the right moment it can be a deadly poison.

Bob: Well, that's a sober reminder from Tom Elliff that should challenge us today, Dennis, to be on guard, to watch our words, and to be very careful because things that we let slip out, we can go back and say, "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it," but the damage is done.  It's kind of like James says, "You light a fire, you go back later and say, 'Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean it,' and the house has still burned down."

Dennis: Mm-hm, that's exactly right.  You know, I've got a very simple assignment.  I had one yesterday, I'm going to have another one today, it's very simple.  I want you to get a piece of paper and, before the lights go out tonight, even if it's only a paragraph, I want you to write just a brief note of love, appreciation, affirmation, and praise to your spouse, and if you're not married, you're a single parent, write one to your mom, your dad, if they're living, or your child.  But use these moments that have been stimulated by what Tom has talked about here, to take some good words and pen them – put them in writing, and then maybe take the time to deposit them in an envelope and even lick the envelope and put the other person's name on the front that you're going to give it to, and then just put it on their pillow.  Just leave it there, and resist the urge to go give it to them and just let them find it.

And, Bob, I think we underestimate the power of just a few positive words.  In fact, the Proverbs tells us, it says, "Anxiety of the heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad."  Not a good sentence, not a good paragraph, not a good chapter, not even a good book – just a good word can lift it.  It can make it glad, and I think it certainly ought to be one of our assignments in marriage and in Christian family to be using good words to lift those that are around us rather than sink them with our words.

Bob: Yeah, and I think it's good to hear someone like Tom speak to this issue to kind of pull our sights up and help us see how it's possible to sin with our tongue against another person.  You know, I think back to a book we've talked about here on FamilyLife Today by Paul David Tripp.  It's called "War of Words," and it's a great book to help us see the variety of ways in which our tongue can lead us into sin, and in a marriage relationship I think that's particularly true.

We've got copies of Paul's book in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and I would encourage our listeners, especially those of us who may need to make a New Year's resolution on an issue like this – get a copy of the book, "War of Words" by Paul David Tripp.  You can go to our website,, and the information you need is right there.  You can order the book online from us, if you'd like.  Again, it's or call 1-800-FLTODAY and someone on our team can make arrangements to have a copy of Paul's book sent to you.

There is also information on our website about the book that you and your wife, Barbara, wrote a number of years ago called "Building Your Mate's Self-Esteem," which is just and practical and relevant today as it was when the book first came out.  It helps coach us, as husbands and wives, about how we can encourage and build up and affirm one another.  You know, the Bible talks about all of the things we're supposed to do – all of these "one anothers" in the Christian life, and you really apply that in the marriage relationship in your book, "Building Your Mate's Self-Esteem," and that's available from our FamilyLife Resource Center as well.

Go to our website,, and the information you need about both books is available there.  You can order online again, or you can call 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY and make arrangements to have either or both of those books sent to you.

Let me also take just a minute here, Dennis, to remind our listeners that today and tomorrow are the last two days, the last two opportunities you have to make a year-end contribution to the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  Many of you have already done that, and we appreciate your financial support.

We are hoping and praying that we will be able to take full advantage of the very generous matching gift that was made available to us back at the beginning of December.  We had friends who said that they would match every donation we receive here at the end of the year up to a total of $425,000 on a dollar-for-dollar basis, and today and tomorrow are the last two opportunities folks have to contribute toward that special matching gift opportunity.

So if you can, go to our website,, or call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation over the phone.  We would appreciate it.  We know this has been a challenging year for many of you.  It has been a challenging year for us financially as well, and we've had to make some adjustments here at FamilyLife in response to that, and we want to continue to be good stewards of the funds that are entrusted to us, and we're hopeful that if there is any way possible, you can make whatever donation you can make, again, either today or tomorrow.

You can donate online at or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY and make your donation over the phone.  Help us take advantage of this special matching gift opportunity, and we do hope to hear from you, and I want to say thanks in advance for whatever you are able to do by way of supporting the ministry of FamilyLife Today.

Well, tomorrow we are going to spend some time with the Galloping Gourmet.  I don't know how many of our listeners remember that classic television show from a number of years ago, but Graham and Treena Kerr are going to be with us tomorrow, and they're going to tell us a little bit about how they have approached the subject of New Year's resolutions in a rather interesting way in their home.  That comes up tomorrow, and I hope you can be with us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.  


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Episodes in this Series

Resolving Conflict Day 1
Breaking the Curse of Words, Part 1
with Tom Elliff December 29, 2008
Tom Elliff discusses the pain of verbal warfare and the healing that God alone can bring.
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