You’re a lousy father!
I wish I had married someone else.
You’re a worthless friend.
You are just an addict and will always be one.
Perhaps you have had these words or similar ones directed towards you. Perhaps you have said them. Words are powerful, aren’t they? They have the power to build us up or tear us down. James 3 speaks of the tongue as a small thing but one with great power, able to set an entire forest on fire with a spark. I’m sure all of us could testify to this truth. How many times have the sharp, hot words of another set us ablaze with anger, fear, shame, guilt or feelings of worthlessness?
There are times in my life where the words of others have more power over me than other times. When I reflect back on those seasons – seasons where my world can be set on fire by the words of others – I recognize something that is true 100% of the time: I’ve taken my eyes and ears off of the One who speaks words of life 100% of the time.
I am listening to the wrong script.
The other day the Lord made this clear to me. I had heard some words that were hurtful. My response was to live into those words. To accept them as true and be that person. Have you ever done that? Someone tells you that you are an inattentive father, for example, or that you are a lazy worker, or a boring wife, or a miserable friend, and you take that inside you and choose to live down to that script.
When that happens to me I usually retreat. I will feel sorry for myself and shut myself off from others because I feel ashamed of what others think of me. Maybe you do the same. Maybe you lash out in anger or get defensive. Maybe you say to yourself something like, “Fine! You think I’m a terrible wife?! I’ll show you how terrible I can be!”
Well the other day I was having a moment where I was closing myself off and wanting to hide because of the words of another. It’s then that I heard the Lord say to me,
Son, why are you so willing to live into the ideas that others have of you rather than Mine? Why do their words about you matter to you more than My words?
As is often the case when the Spirit speaks to me I didn’t have a good answer. It was true. I was living by the wrong script.
I’m learning that when someone’s words cut me down I have a choice in that moment. I can choose to live into their assessment of me or God’s. I can choose to live down to their low expectations of me or I can live into Christ who lives through me.
I’m also learning that as Christ lives through me, my words to others ought to be words that build up and encourage rather than tear down and belittle. God’s words to others are not only those written on the page, but can sometimes be those words we who are His ambassadors speak. So speak life, not death.
Which script do you live by most of the time? If you are not in God’s word daily you will not know the truth about you, nor be able to resist the temptation to live down to the words of others. If you are a slave to shame and self-pity, to living into the self-fulfilling prophecies of others who don’t know any better, then maybe it’s time to feast on God’s words to you. His words are pure and true, and will lead you to life, not death.
Here are just a few of the things God thinks about you. The next time someone’s words threaten to spark a fire in you, allow these words to speak louder.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you. (Psalm 139:17-18)
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Romans 8:37).
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).
I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; he browses among the lilies. (Song of Solomon 6:3).
Sweet Jesus, give me the will to live into Your thoughts and words about me rather than those of this world. Enable me by your grace to live deeply into the script You are writing for my life. Amen.