Sometimes I hate it when she’s right. At least, I dislike it in the short moment my heart is convicted and I have to apologize. Yet, I am grateful for my wife’s perspective, especially when she politely corrects my speech. That’s right, even preachers need correction.
Dawn dish soap tasted terrible in my 10-year-old mouth. After yelling a certain four letter euphemism while running through my boyhood home, my mother washed my mouth out with soap. I was incredulous as I remember thinking, “You and Dad say it all the time. Why am I in trouble?” Over the next few years, my language got fouler, and my mom stopped punishing me, even though it progressed to more colorful utterances than simple words. A sailor would blush at the phrases, stories, and jokes that came out of my mouth before my Lord and Savior, Jesus, changed me. In my late teens, I remember digesting a verse from Paul’s letter to Ephesus, a verse that would tame my tongue and make me reconsider the words I offered the world around me.
“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
From the reading of this verse, I was changed. If Jesus could sacrifice his life to bring grace to me, the least I could do in appreciation is watch my words to give grace to others. Ever since that day, I’ve not uttered a cuss word, thereby removing all need for Dawn dish soap in my life. Yet, removing a few choice words doesn’t mean my speech builds others up or gives grace to hearers, as my wife has dutifully noted. Recently, the struggle gripping me revolved around what I say at the dinner table and what I say to my sons. Too often the words “knucklehead” or “nimrod” color my speech when I relay frustration at other people’s mistakes. Sometimes I even feel entitled to utter those derogatory words after long hard days “being good” at work, like I’m owed a verbal vent for my frustration. My sin deepened one time when a son made a mistake on a project around the house, and I allowed my mouth to turn one of those words on him, resulting in my wife’s gentle correction.
She said, “Christopher, please don’t use those words anymore, especially toward our children.” I love my wife, and I knew my frustration had stepped over a line, one that she was gently but firmly redefining for me in that moment. I’m thankful that she remembered the instruction of Bible verses even when I forget.
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any sin, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” – Galatians 6:1
Even though I may not like it in the moment, I’m grateful for my wife’s perspective and correction. I’m also grateful for the older men in my life that seem to timely reorient my mouth in the right directly. My friend Art Kixmilller, an older servant in the church, reoriented my speech as he shared with me six statements that we all need to say more to be positive, build others up, and give grace to those who would hear. Here is Art’s word replacement program in a nutshell. Strive to say the following statements more.
#6 “I admit I made a mistake.”
#5 “You did a good job.”
#4 “What is your opinion?”
#3 “If you please...”
#2 “Thank you.”
#1 Anything involving the word “WE.”
Then Art shared with me his own verbal shortcomings and how replacing a few negative sayings with these positives changed his life and relationships. Science backs up what Art says, our words directly impact our lives in a major way! From Peter Himmelmann’s 2018 Forbes magazine article titled “The Power of Positive Speech,” we read the following.
“The research that’s been done on the use of positive language to change mood, behavior, and physical well-being is abundant —and abundantly clear. When we regularly use a more buoyant language to describe our lives, we stimulate frontal lobe activity. This includes the language centers such as the Wernicke’s area and Broca’s area, parts of the brain considered vital for human communication. Those are regions of the brain that link directly to the motor cortex, which is responsible for getting us to take action.
“When there is a substantial increase in the use of positive language, functions in the parietal lobes begin to shift. Those shifts are responsible for creating more positive perceptions overall. It’s also believed that the structure of the thalamus —which is thought to be partly responsible for the way we perceive reality—can actually be altered in response to positive words, thoughts and emotions.”
Armed with Art’s six statements, my wife’s gentle correction, and a general mindfulness of my words, I’ve seen a few changes. My relationships with my boys have improved, with them wanting to spend more time with dear old dad. I’ve witnessed my feelings toward challenges with work and life grow in a more positive light. I’ve seen a decrease in my own stress and an increase in my productivity. In short, giving grace to those who hear me blesses me, my family, my church, and my community. Art is right, our words matter.
May you be blessed today to find people who gently correct you and reorient you to more Family Forte, too.
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2