Have you ever said anything that you regretted? This week, instead of saying the word song or tong, I said the word thong both in very awkward church related settings. When I refer to regretful words I am not speaking of embarrassing moments but to purposeful things you say that are hurtful and harmful to others.
In 5th Grade I was riding home from school on the bus. Behind me there was a classmate who was making fun of me by saying things that were rude and crude. I had enough and there was a decision to be made: turn the other cheek or wipe the smirk off his cheek. I chose the later. I charged back there and started wailing on him. The bus driver slammed on the breaks. I flew forward. The bus driver rushed to the back of the bus and grabbed us both by our shirts and ushered us up to the front of the bus. We didn’t make it to our homes that day; instead, we waited for our parents at the bus barn. My mother was not a happy camper.
When someone offends us we want to hold onto the hurt and anger. Or we want to pursue payback, seek revenge and retribution. Unforgiveness is controlling. When we choose to not forgive we put the perpetrator in the drivers seat and say in a sense, “You are in control, you call the shots.” Unforgiveness is like a dog leash and its master is the one who has offended you.
God knows that we struggle with forgiving and being forgiven. That is why He has given us His Bible. He communicates with us and gives us an example of how to communicate with others. He knows it is our mouths that get us into the most trouble. He builds a bridge and gives us the means to get over it. Let’s look at four fascinating truths God gives on how to be forgivers and godly communicators. If we seek to live by these it will save us from a lot of conflict.
1. Speak the Truth [4:25]. Unforgiving people love to latch onto lies. People who do not put off falsehoods will tend to say things like, “You always ____. You never _____. Every time I ____, you _____.” Rather than speaking in absolutes; gather the facts, never assume anything always ask for what is true [cf. 1 Cor.2:11; Phil 2:1-3]. Speak the truth in love to build up, not to break down [cf. 1 Cor.13:1-3; Eph.4:15]. Do not burn your bridges, rather seek to build them back.
2. Solve Today’s Situations Today [4:26-28]. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger because you more than likely will not deal with it. Not dealing with it is not dealing with it. We tend to hold off on dealing with confrontation or forgiveness until a better day when it feels right or the timing is right. But digging up the past should be left to archeologists and projecting on the future is for prophets. Adding time to anger multiplies the problem. Unresolved unforgiveness or anger leads to bitterness. Deal with your situations today by keeping current.
Here are some good questions to ask before you speak:
- Do I have my facts right? Proverbs 18:13
- Should love hide this? [i.e. Is it “sinful” or preferential?] 1 Peter 4:8,
- Is my timing right? Proverbs 15:23
- Is my attitude right? Ephesians 4:15
- Are my words loving? Ephesians 4:15
- Have I prayed for help? Proverbs 3:5
3. Slay the Problem not the Person [4:29-30]. Words pierce people to their core. Words can bring life or kill [Proverbs 18:21, cf. Mt.5:21-26]. Corrupting talk is when you your words, statements and tone to disintegrate others. We can be champions at putting other people down. Like Goliath we have a big mouth that gets us into trouble. David let God do the fighting for him.
Hurtful, harmful and hateful words do not only grieve the offended, but also God. Do you know why? Each and every person was made in the likeness and image of God. When we break apart peoples character it tarnishes the very God who created them. Corrupting talk does not help the situation, however, edifying words search for a solution [cf. Eph.4:15; Col.4:5-6].
4. Step ahead, don’t step back [4:31-32]. Be proactive in your speech rather than reactive. In other words, act—don’t react. We have a tendency to justify our primary sin with a secondary sin [i.e. Gen.3:8-13]. When someone offends us and we fire back in anger, wrath, bitterness, and slander we are letting them get the upper hand. God says as followers of Christ we are to step it up by putting on the character and communication of Christ.
When Jesus was ushered to His death sentence as an innocent man He never defended Himself. It is not the He was a weenie or wimp, or that He was too cowardly to stand up to His accusers. In fact, He was more courageous because He did not retaliate. He let God do the fighting for Him. In the midst of unfair and unforgettable circumstances He remained kind, compassionate and forgiving [i.e. Is.53:4-12].
Years later after the school bus brawl I had a similar situation occur. Somebody was accusing me a things that were false, slandering my character, spreading lies and gossip. Instead of heading over to their house and letting them have it, I quietly confronted them in love and grace. In time, God did the fighting for me and I did not have to do anything to prove myself. I extended forgiveness to the offender and treated them as it never happened. Do you know what happened? The kindness of the God had taught me, and the forgiveness that God had given to me was used as an instrument of brokenness in this person’s life. Forgiveness is a mighty weapon of restoration in the hands of God [Romans 12:21].
The way you communicate and extend forgiveness to others reveals your relationship with God [Luke 6:45].