Jill: Welcome back to #MarriageMonday! Today, we are taking a look at the power of our words. Our words are powerful, and that power can be used both positively and destructively. When Mark and I think of our marriage before crisis and our marriage after crisis, we’ve both made a lot of changes in how we use our words. Before we share more of what we’ve implemented, let’s start by opening up God’s Word, and taking a look at what He has to say about the power of our words:
”There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment.” – Proverbs 12:18-19
“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” – Proverbs 13:3
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” – Proverbs 15:1
“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” – Proverbs 16:24
“Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue, keeps himself from trouble.” – Proverbs 21:23
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion that it may give grace to those who hear.” – Ephesians 4:29
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” – Psalm 19:14
Mark: And that’s honestly, just a few of the verses in the Bible that God talks about our words. He talks about our words a lot!
Jill: When I think back on our marriage, we’ve really changed our words in two main ways. First, we began using words well when we speak up. One of the places Mark really had to grow was to actually speak up, because he would keep everything in, so he’s had to use his God-tool of courage (we talk about God-Tools in our No More Perfect Marriages book) to speak up. There have been times I’ve had to learn how to speak up as well. For instance, I have to kindly ask for what I need, instead of being frustrated that Mark can’t read my mind or see the same needs I see. That’s a place where I’ve really had to learn to use my words well.
Mark: I’d say the other way we’ve changed is how we use less words with each other, particularly less critical words.
Jill: Right. I think for me, it was a foundational transition for me to take my thoughts captive. To stop and think through what it is that I’m wanting to say instead of just letting everything run out of my mouth without any forethought. Sometimes it’s just the slightest adjustment in my tone or the words I choose that can make the biggest difference.
Mark: And recognizing that sometimes those negative words come out of us because they start with what we’re thinking.
Jill: So we really have to recognize that what goes on inside of our head will either come out in words, or it’ll come out in our tone of voice or our attitude. When God tells us that we are to take our thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5), it’s a reminder that what starts in the head eventually works its way to the heart, and often out of the mouth. With that in mind, we want to share four principles that will help you become more intentional about using your words well:
#1: Stop commenting and start using self-control.
Jill: There are times we make comments that simply are not needed. For example, maybe Mark helped me clean up the kitchen, but he didn’t wipe the counters well. I can make a frustrated comment like “Why can’t you remember to wipe ALL of the counters? It’s not that hard!” or I can say, “Thank you for helping me clean up the kitchen.” Sometimes, it’s those unneeded comments that really begin to erode the foundation of a marriage. They hurt a marriage and they’re just not needed, plain and simple.
#2: Stop correcting and start affirming.
Mark: Too often we work to correct the behavior of our spouse. If we would believe the best in our spouse and affirm them, those “issues” that we are trying to correct will likely heal themselves either in our eyes or in their behavior because they are no longer being crushed by our criticism.
Jill: And a lot of times, that can happen when your spouse helps you, but they don’t do it exactly the way you want. In that moment, our tendency is to call out what they didn’t do well, instead of simply saying, “Thank you. Thank you for your help.” Even if there’s a couple of things that you wanted done differently. Your spouse did 80% of the work and you only have to do 20% of it. Instead of calling them out on the 20% that they missed, what if you affirmed and were grateful for the 80% they did?
#3: Stop yelling and start talking.
Mark: So often, we can let our anger, our disappointment, or frustration fuel the way in which we communicate. And if we would use self-control, and start talking to one another, we can gain so much more ground.
Jill: We have to recognize the value of how we approach our spouse, and how we respond to our spouse. A lot of times people tell us, “Well, you don’t understand. My spouse really doesn’t listen to me unless I yell.” That’s a bad habit that’s developed over the years.
Honestly, we all can get into some nasty ruts (habits) in our relationship instead of being willing to grow and change. I remember hearing one mom share that, in order to stop yelling, she moved from calling herself a “yelling mom” to a “whispering mom.” At first, it really threw the kids off, but in time it changed her approach and she still got their attention.
We can do similar things in our conversations with our spouse. Maybe he or she yells at you, and you choose not to yell back. By taking that initiative, you’ll begin to see change.
#4: Stop talking and start listening.
Jill: We really need to recognize that just as it’s important that we use our words well, it’s crucial that we receive words well. It’s important to hear what our spouse is saying to us. Maybe it’s about something they’re struggling with. Maybe it’s about a time we disappointed them and they’re communicating that honestly. If we will actually stop talking and start listening better, we honor the words that our spouse is saying.
Mark: We have to listen to UNDERSTAND. Not to respond. Not to debate. Not to disagree. Not to share our perspective. The best way to do that is to repeat back what your spouse says to you. “What I hear you saying is _____________________________. Is that correct? Is there more about that?” Doing so will let them know they’re being heard. Then be empathetic. Step into their shoes. Don’t even try to offer another perspective until you have done your best to understand your spouse’s heart and let them know you care.
Jill: Listening well takes some real intentionality. If you’re on your phone, and your spouse is talking to you, turn your phone over so you can’t see the screen, and then look in your spouse’s eyes. When I’m on my laptop, I have close my laptop screen so I’m really focused in on what Mark is saying. Giving our spouse our full attention speaks value to them. And that’s a message that needs no words at all!
Mark: Many of us use words either sparsely or carelessly. With just a few tweaks we can begin to make changes that will improve communication, increase emotional safety, and decrease hurt in the relationships that mean the most to us.
How about you? Your words are powerful. Which principles do you need to put into action in your own marriage?
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Thank you for these helpful tips. This is getting filed in my “Marriage Advice” folder for future reference!
Kim, so glad!
Thank you for your wisdom in helping us to be better communicators in our marriage and with our other relationships. We love you guys!
You’re very welcome Sonya!