The Power of WordsMay 26, 2011
Have you considered the strength of your words? Today Dennis Rainey talks with author Christen Ditchfield about the power of the tongue.
Have you considered the strength of your words? Today Dennis Rainey talks with author Christen Ditchfield about the power of the tongue.
The Power of Words
Bob: The Bible says, “Keep your tongue from evil.” It’s easier said than done, isn’t it? Here is Christin Ditchfield.
Christin: You know, I wish I could come up with a list and say, “These are some things that you should never, ever say.” The trouble is that a lot of it depends on the situation, so we really have to ask the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom. The Psalmist prayed, “Lord, set a guard over my lips.” Ask God to help us speak words of life and words of hope and words of healing, instead of words that have destructive power in the lives of others.
Bob: This is FamilyLifeToday for Thursday, May 26th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. The words you speak today have tremendous power in the lives of others. They can build up or they can tear down.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, I have a very distinct memory of something that happened in the – I can’t remember if it was the fifth or the sixth grade. The memory is clear; I’m just not sure which year in which to locate the memory.
Dennis: Uh-huh. It happens as you get older.
Bob: It was the beginning of school, and you know before school starts you go out with your mom and you buy new clothes for school, to get ready to go back because you want to make a good impression and so we had bought some new clothes to go back to school in.
Dennis: Bobby Lepine was going to show up in brand-new shoes.
Bob: Well, it wasn’t just brand-new shoes. This was 1967 or ’68, and so clothing styles, as you may remember, were trending a little bit at that time.
Dennis: Even for sixth graders?
Bob: Even for fifth and sixth graders.
Bob: And I got a pair of some pretty wide bell-bottoms and a polka-dot shirt that I was wearing –
Dennis: Whoo. Whoo.
Bob: -- to school.
Dennis: Could we put a copy of that picture on the web?
Bob: There’s no picture that exists of it. I wanted a Nehru jacket. Do you remember the Nehru jackets?
Dennis: Oh, my goodness.
Bob: Because Lincoln Hayes on The Mod Squad –
Dennis: Those harm people. Those buttoned up against the neck.
Bob: -- the neck. They –
Dennis: They kind of choke people.
Bob: -- choke you. Yeah, I wanted a Nehru jacket. I didn’t get that, but I got the polka-dot shirt and the wide bell-bottoms, and I remember walking into class and Tommy Langenbach – I’ve lost track of Tommy Langenbach. If any of our listeners know where Tommy is I’d love to look him up.
Bob: But when I walked in, Tommy took one look at my outfit and he just started laughing. And he said, “Lippy,” -- he called me “Lippy” that day; that was my new nickname – “Lepine.” He called me “Lippy.” “Lippy’s going mod.” That’s what he said. Those three words, I remember them like they were yesterday.
Dennis: “Lippy’s going mod.”
Bob: “Lippy’s going mod,” and I never wore that polka-dot shirt to school again for the rest of my life.
Dennis: (laughing) Somehow the picture of it really convinces me that really is the truth.
Bob: You can imagine, and it’s frightening, isn’t it?
Dennis: Well, we’re talking about the power of words today, and not just with “Lippy Lepine.” In all of our lives –
Bob: I should not have told that story.
Dennis: I’m glad you did. I’m really amazed it’s taken 18 years for it to come out. But we have a guest with us in the studio who has written a book called A Way with Words. Christin Ditchfield joins us on FamilyLife Today. Christin, you really believe that words do matter, don’t you?
Christin: Oh, absolutely, I do. “The tongue has the power of life and death,” the Scripture says, “and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
Bob: So A Way with Words – Does that mean like let’s do away with them and not have anything more to do with them?
Bob: That’s not – No, it’s A Way. Okay, I’ve got it. A Way with Words.
Dennis: Well, Christin knows full well the power of words. She is a conference speaker. She is the author of more than 50 books, and is the host of a daily syndicated radio program called Take it to Heart, heard all across the country.
This book is really calling women to realize they have tremendous power in their words. This first dawned upon you – one of the things you did for a number of years was, you were a school teacher. But you had an experience with a bunch of preschoolers who illustrated this principle powerfully.
Bob: They didn’t come in bell-bottoms. That wasn’t the issue.
Christin: No, this was many years later. (laughter)
Dennis: They just had crayons. That’s all this group had.
Christin: That’s right. I’d been asked to take over a preschool class for a teacher who was needed at another grade level. I’ll never forget on my first day walking into that classroom, and I had six rambunctious little boys and one precious little girl. I let them play for a little while and then I called them all over to the table to color a picture.
I had this great big tub of crayons, more than enough for five classrooms full of children. As I reached over to set it down on the table, I noticed something I’d never seen before. The kids were jumping up on the table, grabbing for the tub of crayons. They were reaching up and they were slapping at each other and fighting each other. I couldn’t understand. I mean this is a giant tub of crayons.
I’d never seen so much enthusiasm over crayons. I understood even less when I realized they were fighting over the pink ones. Every little boy in that class was determined to emerge from the bin with a pink crayon in his hand because pink was the little girl’s favorite color, and they all wanted to color their pictures pink to win her approval and affection.
Dennis: Oh, really?
Christin: You know, I watched that class. That little tiny girl ruled that class with a little velvet fist. Those boys followed her around all day; and they looked to her, every time they were presented with a choice of activity – “Do you want to go on the slide or the swings?” – they were looking to her. “What does she think? What does she want to play?” They fought to stand next to her, to sit next to her.
I realized right then, “You know, this girl is five years old. She couldn’t even read, let alone read a book like How to Win Friends and Influence People; but right there, right then she had the power of influence over that entire classroom of little boys.
I believe that all women are gifted with that influence. God has given us great influence, not just over the men in our lives, but our co-workers, our neighbors, our children, our grandchildren, our family, our friends. There are so many lives that we touch, so many words that we speak; and those words have great power.
Bob: Do you think that’s different for a woman than it is for a man? Because, I mean, men can speak words and command armies and cause great things to happen.
Christin: Well, that’s true. We all wrestle with the power of the tongue, but I think it’s a greater problem for us. There have been a number of studies on the number of words that people speak in a day. I read one study that said women speak as many as 50,000 words a day; men speak 25,000. Or 30,000 for women and 15,000 for men.
We speak more; I don’t think that would be a surprise to anybody. We network and we connect and we visit and we share. That’s part of the way that God has created us; it’s part of how we nurture and how we relate to each other as women.
That’s our challenge because the Scripture says, “Where words are many, sin is not absent.”
Dennis: You have a quote in your book, that I had to smile. I read it two or three times, I liked it so much. You said, “Fighting is essentially a masculine idea. A woman’s weapon is her words.”
Christin: That’s right. I think we do use our words as weapons; and it can be a weapon for good if we use our tongue to speak words of life and encouragement, if we use it to fight the enemy and support and build up and encourage our families.
But it can be a devastating weapon when we turn it on those we love, when we turn it on total strangers and say biting, cutting, hurtful things. There are many stories that we’ve all heard of women whose lives have been impacted, men whose lives have been impacted by something that some woman said to them, words of encouragement or words of destruction, words of devastation.
Dennis: You actually experienced that as a little girl. You went to your grandmother’s house one day.
Christin: I did. You know, I went to visit her to spend the night. I think I was actually a young teenager. When I got to her house she was having a ladies’ Bible study. They weren’t quite finished yet. As I walked in the door I saw my grandmother standing in the middle of the room, and she was sobbing. Her whole body was shaking. There were women gathered around her, they had their arms around her, and they were praying over her.
I just kind of slipped away to the guest room and kind of waited. I didn’t really understand what was going on. After a while my grandmother came to get me. The ladies had gone home and she wanted to make a cup of tea and tell me what had happened, in case I was worried.
She said they were studying the Scripture and God had put his finger on something in her life that he wanted to deal with. She had been carrying around a hurt for more than sixty years, something her mother had said to her one day. They had been in an argument or something and her mother had said, “You were a mistake and should never have been born.”
Bob: Oh, my goodness.
Christin: You know, all of my grandmother’s life God used her to do some amazing things, to touch many lives, to have a wonderful family, children, grandchildren, and yet here in her later years all she could think about were those things that her mother had said to her.
Christin: “You were a mistake.” Words have power, and something that we say carelessly, something that we say recklessly in anger – we have no idea how those words can echo in that person’s heart for years and years to come.
Dennis: You know, I started thinking about the women that God has used in my life. I’ve had many used in very, very powerful ways. I just didn’t have the words that wound that you talk about in your book. But many people do. If they do have words that have impacted them, like your grandmother, what should they do about that?
Christin: Well, you know there are all kinds of answers to that question. I guess the first thing to do is to recognize that those wounds are there and to bring them to the Lord and to ask him for healing. To try as best you can, with the strength of the Holy Spirit, to forgive those who have wounded us, and I’ll tell you why: because for all those words that have stuck in our hearts, that have wounded us, those wounds that we carry, the reality is, like it or not, you have been that person in someone else’s life.
You have probably said something, whether you have realized it or not, that caused that kind of wound to someone else. So you need God’s forgiveness; therefore you must forgive. That’s one of the toughest things that God asks us to do, but I believe we have to forgive.
If the wounds are very great; if it’s a case where there’s been verbal abuse, sometimes we need the help of a good Christian counselor or pastor, someone who can come alongside us and help us go through that process. But it begins with understanding that we have a responsibility too, that we’ve got to forgive, and ask God to do a healing work.
As those ladies gathered around my grandmother and began to pray for her to help her let go, ask God to help her let go of that pain and that heartache, and that’s where it begins – letting go.
Dennis: You know, Barbara is not here, my wife, but if she was here I think she would speak up on behalf of women and say “What’s a mom to do who may be a little bit like my mom was when I was growing up, who was a bit fiery, and maybe was a little too expressive in her words from time to time?” What should a mom be mindful of, because her words can be very powerful in the lives of her children, as well as her husband, too.
Christin: That’s right. Well, be careful about making prophecies over your children, about making predictions, about “You’ll never be this,” or “You’ll never do that,” or “Why can’t you do anything?” Be careful about the words that you speak. Be aware that those words have power.
And then apologize. You know, you can set a wonderful example by saying to your kids, “You know, sometimes I get carried away. Sometimes I lose my temper, and what I said to you was wrong, and I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” What an incredible step. Those are powerful words – “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”
Christin: But be aware. I wish that I could come up with a list. As I was thinking about this subject, it would be great if we could come up with a list and say, “These are some things that you should never, ever say.” The trouble is that a lot of it depends on context.
You could say to someone, “You’re just like your father,” and that could be a wonderful compliment or it could be a devastating blow. It depends on the situation. So we really have to ask the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom. The Psalmist prayed, “Lord, set a guard over my lips.” Ask God to help us speak words of life and words of hope and words of healing, instead of words that have destructive power.
Bob: I think what you’re drawing attention to – and this is really helpful – Most of the time when we’re talking, we’re doing it on autopilot. We’re just kind of going through life, saying whatever comes to mind, communicating whatever is essential or necessary in the moment.
What I hear you saying and what I see the Scriptures saying is we can be much more purposeful, intentional, constructive. We can recognize the power of words and rather than just saying the first thing that comes to mind, be deliberate and speak words that bring life to other people.
Dennis: Well, and speak well of people. We’ve been doing radio now for over 18 years. I don’t think we’ve ever done a program on gossip, but gossip can destroy the reputation of another person or cause suspicion about someone.
What would you say to a woman, because that’s who you’ve written the book to, what would you say to a woman who may be given to just delighting in calling someone up or sending an email or a text or maybe whispering in a moment about another person. What would you say to a gossip?
Christin: Oh, wow. That is a temptation I think for all of us as women, because God has created us to network and build relationships. Part of the way we do that is to share information and to share stories. But when it becomes bad is when it is hurtful, when it is biting, when it’s unnecessary.
If we’re delighting in that then that’s a sign that we have greater issues in our heart. What is it in us that takes pleasure in tearing other people down? What is it in us that makes us feel superior when we can relate something negative or something hurtful about someone else? That’s where we need to go to the cross and go to Jesus and ask him to bring those things to light, and begin to work in our hearts. Gossip is terribly destructive.
I think of a time when I was in high school and I stopped speaking to a girl who had been a friend of mine because somebody else was constantly filling my ears with negative things about her. I think about that over the years – friends that I have lost because I heard bad things about that person from someone else.
Now, they’d never hurt me. We’d never had a falling out or a disagreement, but a friend was lost because of that divisive talk. The Scriptures warn us repeatedly about the danger of gossip.
You have to realize, too, that, the Scripture is very clear about the things that we do, the seeds that we sow, that we reap what we sow. If we are going around spreading evil, spreading gossip, spreading unkind things about other people, that’s going to come back to us.
Bob: Is that what gossip is? Is it spreading unkind things about other people? You know, somebody will come up to you and they’ll say, “I just want to share this with you so you can be in prayer for so-and-so.” How do you recognize the difference between genuine concern about so-and-so and seeking prayer versus gossip? How do you know what’s what?
Christin: It’s tough. It is tough. I guess one of the things that we’ve mentioned already is if you take delight, if it gives you some sort of pleasure to relate the story.
I think we need to ask ourselves how much information is necessary. I can say, “Oh, I just saw my hairdresser at the store.” I don’t need to add, “Yeah, her husband just left her and her children are on drugs.” That information is not necessary to the story that I’m telling or the anecdote that I’m relating. We need to ask God to show us.
Begin to be aware of it, and say, “Do I really need to repeat this?” I used to use Philippians 4:8 as a guide, you know, and I would ask myself, “Is this true?” But that didn’t turn out to be such a good guide for me in this area, because a lot of what I’m saying is true, but is it helpful? Does it build up? Does it encourage? Will it help this other person?
One of the dangers of gossip, I think, is that it gives us the opportunity to pass judgment on someone else, to be critical and to judge them for their actions or their behavior, or their relationships or their marriage. And the Scripture says not to judge or we will be judged with the same standard.
Dennis: I think what we need to realize is we hold within our own ability that Proverb that says,”Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” That’s a pretty potent statement. You can either bring life to another person, or you can assassinate their character, cause suspicion, and bring doubt.
In your book, you’re really challenging us to take a step back and to realize specifically as women, you possess tremendous power as women with the words you use among those you influence, whether that’s your coworkers, your husband, your children, your extended family. Choose your words carefully, because they do have an impact.
Bob: I think it’s interesting, and we ought to say here – you’ve written this as a single young woman, and most of the time when we think about words and where the danger zone is, it’s in a marriage relationship or with children. A lot of the examples we’ve used here have been in that family context. But you really wanted to write this to recognize it’s not simply at home that our words can be a problem, right?
Christin: That’s right. It’s not just in a marriage or just with our children. There are many other lives that we touch. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a salon where I didn’t hear one woman say to another, “You know what you should do.” We’re forever giving each other advice, and that’s our coworkers, our neighbors, total strangers, our family and our friends.
Now I’m an aunt, and I take great pride in having the opportunity to influence my little nephews and to be a part of their life, being conscious that the words I speak to them have an impact. You know, the things that I choose to talk about when I’m with them – we can have a great impact whether we’re married or single, whether we have young children, whether we’re empty nesters. We have so many relationships and so many opportunities.
A lot of women like to say, “Well, nobody listens to me anyway,” but it’s not true. You know the people that have spoken things to you that you still remember to this day. You know the power of words in your own life, so realize that your words have that power in the lives of others.
Bob: So if somebody listening to us today is convicted; they’re going, “You know what? Gossip has been an issue for me.” Or, “I have a critical tongue, and I have expressed critical things to my children or to my husband, and I want to tame the tongue.” What kind of advice would you give them?
Christin: Well, the first thing to do is to head straight to the cross, to ask Jesus for his forgiveness, to admit to him, confess to him that this is a problem, and ask for his help.
Then you can recruit people that you love, your friends or family or your spouse or your children, and say, “You know, this is an area I really want to work in. I’m having trouble in this specific area.
When you hear me complaining, would you gently remind me? When you hear me gossiping on the phone to my friend, would you give me that high sign, that little signal?”
Begin to memorize Scripture, and Philippians 4:8 – I mentioned that it wasn’t so helpful for me in determining whether something was true – if I should pass it on – but it’s super helpful in deciding what I should put in my heart, because the things that I put in my heart will come out in my speech.
Christin: The things that I listen to, the things that I read, the things that I watch – those things will shape my words. So be careful what you put in, so that what comes out is something that will build up and encourage and inspire, good words, positive words, healthy words.
Dennis: I would say that anybody who wants to tame the tongue, memorize this verse: James chapter 1, verse 19. It’s very simple; it’s got a very clear concept. James 1:19: “Know this, my beloved brothers,” so this is for Christians, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”
I think you’ll be amazed if you’ll memorize that passage how many times the Holy Spirit will bring that passage to mind right before you’re about to let go a volley of words that you’re going to regret.
Bob: Slow to speak, slow it down.
Christin: That’s right.
Dennis: Slow to anger, quick to hear, quick to hear. What’s the quote? I have regretted my words, never my silence.
Dennis: In fact, I wish I had memorized James chapter 1, verse 19 early in my marriage, because I was too honest with Barbara too early, alright? I should have listened a whole lot more and spoken a whole lot less.
Bob: But you had the answer. You were ready. You were ready to go ahead and explain –
Dennis: Of course I had the answer.
Like I said, the problem is pride, is it not?
Bob: You know, I really think one of the great benefits of what you’ve done in this book is you’re giving women the opportunity – and I don’t want to just single out women, but that’s who you had in mind as you wrote this book.
You’re giving women the opportunity to get together with other women and get a copy of the book and go through it together and take some time to confess to one another, to get help from one another, to work this issue out in genuine biblical community. I mean, just to be honest about the struggles that we all face in this area and to love one another and help one another in that kind of a context.
Of course, when you get together with other women and go through the book, you’ve got to guard your tongue and make sure you’re not getting involved in gossip or make sure that you’re not slandering somebody else, so there are cautions that go on there, but again, that’s where the book helps guide your thinking.
We’ve got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. The book is called A Way With Words. It’s by our guest today, Christin Ditchfield, and you can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to request a copy.
Again it’s called A Way With Words. Our website is FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call to order a copy at 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800 “F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “TODAY.” When you get in touch with us we’ll let you know how you can get a copy of Christin’s book sent to you.
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Go to FamilyLifeToday.com, make a donation online, or call us toll-free at 1-800-FLTODAY, and you can make a donation over the phone. We’re grateful for whatever you’re able to do, and just want to say thanks in advance for your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We really do appreciate it.
We want to encourage you to be back with us tomorrow, when we’re going to talk more about taming the tongue, about watching our words and making sure our speech is seasoned with salt. We’ll talk more about that with Christin Ditchfield tomorrow. Hope you can be here 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 will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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