My blog post for today is late. I
did not procrastinate - much, but I am hesitant to share my thoughts on the
power of words. Words are so powerful they change lives. God is the power of
words of Truth. I am still working through my view on the appropriate use of
truth-telling. But with trepidation, may
I present a different view than most of the posts this month?
When I speak,
I often say the wrong thing or use
the wrong words or have the wrong tone, even when speaking Truth. I am not
understood. Sometimes it is like I’m speaking a different language, trying to
make my point. If I am not with people, there is less opportunity to offend
with my words, right? Perhaps that is the true reason I am an introvert - fear.
When I write,
I am also afraid, of putting words
in black and white - they may last for eternity, always to be referred to as
proof I was wrong, or unkind, or selfish, or whatever else was lacking in me at
the time of writing. I was silenced from speaking the truth of my life for many
years, so putting it onto the stone tablet for sharing is especially frightful.
Of course, conversing in laughter, or writing creative fiction of some sort is
safer. Those times and writings are fun.
I am not the happy sunflower type
of Christian. I am prone more to being a weedy Christian - like dandelions.
Sometimes bright, sometimes fun, but still considered a pest when I blow up when I attempt to spread seeds of Truth that are meant to multiply, to
influence near and far, but are not liked.
I think when I act or
speak or write in ways that offend others, there are three reasons.
1) I am still responding to the trauma of my childhood, to lies that were set into
my being as beliefs. My whole adult life I have been dealing with capturing and
learning Truth to combat those lies, and some are so deeply entrenched I expect
to spend the rest of my life digging them out when I recognize them.
Again because of my childhood, I feel silenced, unheard, not valued, until I
cannot stand it anymore and blurt out my thoughts. Having spent time with those
thoughts inside me, I have often dissected them enough to have compared them to
Scripture and am convinced of their Truth. But the delivery means the Truth is
not always heard.
3) The third reason that others may be offended by what I write is that it hits them
squarely between the eyes as Truth.
We are often told to “sandwich”
criticism as a layer set between encouragements, or to at least find ways to
say it kindly. When speaking or writing Truth, though, especially when speaking
into the life of another, whether we know them or not, there are times when kind
words mask the truth, couching it to make it seem not too important or
necessary to respond to.
So how do you correct, criticize,
reprimand, or discipline others when it is needed?
What would Jesus say?
The red words in our Bibles do not
always sound kind. Jesus was compassionate to the lost who sought him. The
writers of the Gospels record many incidents of this. But they also recorded
some of Jesus’ harsh words to his disciples and the leaders of religion. He was
not kind. He was straightforward, reprimanding, even name-calling! A few
1) Jesus told the disciples that what God did in the life of another
disciple was none of their business (John 21:20-23)
He suggested to the quibbling disciples that neither of them may
be qualified to sit at his side in the coming Kingdom. To seek position is not
what is important, but God Himself would decide (Mark 10:35-45. Matthew writes
it was their mother who asked Jesus if her sons could sit at his side, but Mark
attributes the question to the brothers themselves.)
Jesus called the Pharisees names, like the “offspring of vipers.” (Matthew 23:13-36)
So, I ask, is it appropriate to
speak or write words of Truth that will and do offend others?
More examples, these from Paul.
Paul tells Christians he will deal sharply with them if things
have not changed before he arrives. (2 Cor 13:10) That sounds harsh, doesn't it?
Paul tells others to
correct and rebuke those (other believers) who sin. (1 Tim 5:20, Titus 2:15)
We all know any correction is
difficult to take. Those red pen marks from an editor are difficult for writers
but are meant to be helpful, so we accept them. If they are suggestions or
general comments, we may not take them seriously. If they are definite, like
“no comma needed,” we are likely to concede the editor is correct. Even if a
non-writer, non-editor, reader makes a comment that “This sentence is hard to
read,” we will take a good look at it. It does not matter so much who gives
correction, we still need to look at it and decide if it is applicable to us.
Being reprimanded is even more difficult than correction. Yet
again, reprimands are sometimes necessary. While correction is helping us be
better, a reprimand is telling us we are wrong and need to change something. In
our writing, if we make a historical error, we may receive a reprimand that we
did not fact-check so are misrepresenting the truth. In business, we may receive a
reprimand for a mistake that costs money, time, or clients. These are examples
of stating a fact - this is the truth, this is what you did or what happened or
what your actions caused while telling us we need to correct it or at least own it and not repeat it.
We can and hopefully do learn from
our mistakes without others always pointing them out, but sometimes we have a
blind spot that keeps us from recognizing we are doing wrong. Someone may need
to point it out. I believe it is a believer’s responsibility to correct and reprimand our eternal fellow-travelers
in The Way. The fruits of the Spirit are to be sought, learned, and practiced, absolutely.
But does it not also take correction and reprimand to sometimes help us learn
to put into practice those fruits?
While I believe in practicing kind
words, I also believe there is a time and place to give and receive a reprimand.
With this, there are also cautions I am learning.
Ensure you are not criticizing from a gut reaction that may be
guided by faulty beliefs on your part.
Think it through and know why you are convinced “someone” should
say “something” to correct another. Remember that like needs, if you are the
one who sees it, you are probably the one God is calling to do it.
Speak Truth plainly, with clear honesty, calling sin what it is.
Do not make a rebuke into a suggestion.
Are we able to be kind in rebuking others?
I hope so. But like using words in
speech or writing, we need to practice so we get better. At first, we may be a
little weedy. Others will be offended no matter how it is done if they are
convicted by the Truth of the words, but we cannot learn if we do not practice. (In my opinion) Christians are too
willing to reprimand non-believers and excuse believers, rather than love non-believers
and reprimand those in their local church family.
As I said, I am not good at
reprimanding. I do not want to do it. Someone in a position of authority, or
knowledge, or with a closer relationship should say what needs to be said. God
can do this through His Word, even, or through those who He has placed in authority.
However, God does not usually choose the mighty to battle wrongdoing. He sends
the child, the weak, and the broken to show His strength and Glory in the battle.
God sends you and me to reprimand
others. He sends others to reprimand us. God asks us to use our words to give
both Life-giving Love-Truth and Life-giving Discipline-Truth. This is partly why both speaking
and writing words can be scary. Others may be blessed, but they may also be
Is it a risk you will take?
better than hidden love.