Words Are Powerful - They Can Help Make or Break a Marriage - and a Life!

Remember the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” When I was a child, it was a memorized, catchy defense used against name-calling and bullying.

But – that’s not entirely true. Words are powerful and they can hurt. As a married man of more than a quarter-century now, I can attest to the power of words. My wife’s kind words soothed my spirit when my father passed away in June 2020. When we lost our gym business in January 2021, she was even more crushed that I was, but we encouraged one another in light of God’s sovereignty and His promises to never leave or forsake us. She has been a warm blanket over my heart over the years, a constant spring of faith, humor, and joy. I can only hope I have been as much of a help to her on her dark days as she has been to me.

God designed functional and healthy marriages that way – to bear one another’s burdens and lighten the loads that life dumps upon us all. So how about you – are you a support to your spouse, or a wet-blanket hindrance constantly pointing the finger of blame at him or giving her the thumb of disappointment?

I was rummaging through some old writings and correspondences of mine just the other day and came across an email I received years ago from an old, dear friend. I had kept it as a cautionary note to myself, recognizing that I must always beware I stand lest I fall. I had been so proud to be in her wedding party as she walked down the aisle with whom she believed at the time was the proverbial “man of her dreams.” Sadly, he turned out to be a nightmare.

Her note to me is below and she gave me permission to share it. More than 10 years later, it’s still painful for me to read.

Jake… did not treat me as a partner… He would tell me that I had to be submissive to him at all times (he used these words) and when he said something to me, I am not to talk back, give my opinion, and to just say yes! He would talk with a loud, stern voice all the time. Well I tried really hard to not have an opinion but I had to speak up occasionally to what I believed and that is where the verbal abuse came into play. He would immediately start cursing me out loud in front of all the kids. Then he would run around throwing and breaking things in the house, and it would go on about a day and then to keep the peace I would apologize. I began to REALLY RESENT him terribly bad, and I would say the last year I fell out of love with him and wished I could blink my eyes and disappear. He then proceeded to use his wealth to manipulate me and scare me into staying with him. I would try and tell him how I did not like this, and he would say you are just an immature little girl that was not taught how to treat a husband and I am here to teach you. He always made me feel stupid and he looked down on me and I hated that feeling. He would always say you are not giving me respect. He would tell me to always jump up and greet him at the door when he came home; if I put the dishes in the dishwasher the wrong way, he would call me to the kitchen and scold me and teach me the “correct” way. The week I decided to leave was the worst. I was sitting on a chair in front of the TV, he ran over to me and started kicking the chair I was in, screaming you b______ over and over then threw a glass of wine all over me. He ran into the bedroom, grabbed my purse, and took out my credit card and the keys to my car (which is really his car in his name) and told me I would not get them back until I learned how to act.

They eventually divorced, choosing not to reconcile. I acknowledge this note is from her perspective alone and he had a side as well – but that’s her story and it was a tough environment for her and her children. The statistics on divorce are stark and well-known - about 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce, and the average marriage lasts only 8 years. We must remember that divorce never affects just two people – it reverberates and claims other victims - children, family, friends, society, and the Church.

Do we speak affirming words to our spouses, words that provide hope and encouragement? Or do we make excuses for tacky comments and boorish behavior? The Devil made me do it – she just pushed me too far – I just couldn’t take it anymore. Hey, he had it coming. He just gets on my last nerve.

What about when someone lashes out at you – sometimes taking a breath and counting to 10 silently can be the best response in the short-term. There have been times when I have “stood up for myself” and dishonored God in the process. Conversely, I can honor God by taking a breath and then giving a thoughtful, measured response. Our reaction to adversity can show God if we truly are seeking to glorify Him with our good conduct.

God’s word is clear! In Matthew 12:36-37, the Lord Jesus said: "But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."

In Ephesians 4:29, the apostle Paul admonished the Ephesians (and Christians in 21st-century Houston, Texas, as well) when he said through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” That’s a tall order – without the leading of the Holy Spirit, sometimes my speech is not very edifying – how about you?

So, what’s a word worth? Words can help shape the destiny of those around us. We have all been exposed to and I pray have accepted the greatest words of all – the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ; “For God so loved the world…”

What’s a word worth – nothing less than eternal life! So, before you buy that next vowel, speak wisely, brothers and sisters – speak wisely and well.

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