How easily do we speak evil against others? Is it when someone has hurt us, betrayed us, simply annoyed us, insulted us, spoke evil against us, wronged a loved one, or is living a life that is not in accordance with our beliefs or opinions? Do we find ourselves murdering with the tongue when someone has failed to live up to our expectations? I know I have greatly fallen.
It is so easy to speak love toward those who are in harmony with us and living the way we like. It is natural to speak kindly of those who we are proud of, admire, agree with, and share what we hold so valuable and close to our hearts. It is easy to love those we feel loved by or is empathetic with our pain. When we feel accepted, appreciated, and respected by someone, it is effortless to speak well of their character. What reward is in this though?
When we take offense to another’s judgment, actions, feelings, or words, and we emotionally react unloving through our response to them, whether in our hearts, in our minds, in our behavior, or in our words, we are embracing evil against them. We fail to fight our temptations to fall with heroic virtue. We fail to bring light into the darkness and often, wounded, allow ourselves to be consumed by transgression. We often act upon this through our words, whether to the offender or about them to others as a means to relieve our own emotional pain. We could be wrestling with rejection, envy, anger, self-pity, or perhaps it's the inability to love ourselves so we fail to love others. By failing to respond with love we take up violence and kill with what we say about them or to them. We are starving ourselves from peace. We are depriving ourselves from joy. We are passing on the opportunity for growth. Not only is this harmful to our spiritual life, but our mental state, emotional health, our well-being, and our ability to rise to victor in the way our Father calls us to.
This lack of virtue is often disguised by desensitized terms, such as venting, sharing, discussing, and confiding. We may be quick to chastise another behind their back because we have not yet found a loving way to relieve the frustration. Sometimes we may even feel entitled enough to hurt the person directly to their face by throwing snappy remarks, passive aggressive comments, direct insults, or even speak our cruelty through giving the cold shoulder or silent treatment. Perhaps our heartless words speak of shaming, belittling, disrespecting, and mocking. We may pick someone apart who we are unhappy with because all we see is our own pain, how they made us feel, or how they made someone else important to us feel. How often do we put ourselves in our offender's shoes and strive to understand how THEY feel? We may attack someone’s character, condemn their heart, scrutinize and criticize one’s decisions, and harm one’s reputation by the simple choice of our words. We willingly crucify them. How cruel.
Many think (and I was guilty of this too) that it is healthy to relieve one’s negative emotions through "venting", which is the sugarcoated name for verbal destruction when not done lovingly. It is verbally ripping another person apart because as humans we need an outlet and sometimes haven't yet learned how to bring compassion into our negative emotions and thoughts. Instead of love being our outlet, we choose murder of the tongue because in our hearts we have already killed them. Sometimes if one's conscience is developing, one may withhold from speaking badly of others with outsiders, such as people they are not necessarily close with (*cough cough* Facebook), but may often excuse bashing, gossiping, or slander if it's only with a best friend, a spouse, or other family member. After someone has finished unleashing their resentment, hurt, and anger with this confidant, they feel better and translate that into a healthy outlet. How shortsighted of us to find this way of life worthwhile.
Murder of the tongue is never a healthy outlet. It is harmful to our souls, clouds our judgment, embraces cruelty, weakens us, and leads us to greater sin. We also wound those we speak evil against. Nothing is further from love than speaking evil against a child of God, no matter how far they have fallen. We are called to love the unlovable and that applies to how we speak of them. I continuously ask God to help me develop my conscience and guide my thoughts and words so that I am faithful with every part of my being. I am far from being a saint, but picking ourselves up over and over again is how we will become it.
"The saints are the sinners who keep on trying."
Robert Louis Stevenson
I find this pursuit to be absolutely necessary for us to be well with our souls. So carry on with the good fight all you powerful and fiercely holy women! I believe you have the courage to become saints, and if you ask me, beginning with something as little as our words is a beautiful way to start becoming one.
So does this mean we can't ever share our pain with someone we trust? Yikes I hope not or we'd all be in a pickle. I believe it's in how we share our pain that matters. Sharing our pain with a confidant is healing! To truthfully share one's personal experiences with a confidant in loving words, with a loving tone, and an empathetic approach, one that honors the person's image and likeness of God, is how we ought to communicate. It's remarkable how freeing this little way makes us feel, even when our offender has chosen a different path. How often have we turned people’s hearts against a human being by the poor light we portray them in, by the ugly way we describe them, and how evil we feel about them? It is heartbreaking by how many people have lost friends, have lost family, have lost respect, and have lost love, because others failed to be loving through their words. I have sadly been in both shoes. I have deeply felt the painful cost, and because of it I have learned to grow more compassionate toward others through how I speak of them and to them.
I have found that when I feel a vice within me begin to snarl or my hurt begin to show itself through anger or withdrawal, a sincere prayer for the spirit of peace, crushes it. When I invite God to fill the depth of me with peace and to take away any evil my emotions are ready to reveal, a great weight is lifted. It is like crashing waves within me suddenly calms and an armour of strength shields me. To continue to ask God to guide my thoughts, words, and behaviors have allowed me to nurture my relationships in a God-centered and flourishing way. The softness and gentleness that is shown through words has tremendous outcomes.
"Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body."
When I strive to make the decision to only respond with love and to speak with love I feel fulfillment. It is not through withdrawal. It is not through lashing out. It is through actively loving through my words that reveals Christ within me. This does not necessarily mean the hurt suddenly goes away, but it is doing the right thing despite the thorns that makes it worthwhile. Knowing that what I do is for God above all things that anchors me in devoted love. I believe that love conquers all, and that includes not only conquering strife, but my own wounds, weaknesses, and sinfulness. It is my soul's desire to put this into practice with not only my loved ones, but the ones that are hard to love, and the ones that do not love me in return. I put it into practice within my own self. When I fail to die to my selfish desires and speak out of frustration or out of hurt, I have lost the battle and am full of regret. I have failed to love God through them. I have failed to love His children.
It is through intentional love that we are able to speak words of warmth that mirror His unconditional love toward us. It is because of His grace, our free will to make a decision, and not because of our roller coaster of emotions that we are able to triumph. We cannot rely on our emotions to lead us to wisdom, good judgment, and a fruitful life. We must not rely on our feelings to love. Our emotions often conform to our decision when we have taken action and have chosen love. (Make a sticky note if it will help: DECISION BEFORE EMOTION!) I have found that when I am successful, it calms my interior storm, and the lack of virtue of others around me cannot stir it. Talk about feeling powerful!
"The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."
This week, I encourage you loving people to join me by taking extra caution by the words you decide to share with others. Speak with empathy. Speak with compassion. Speak with tenderness. Speak with humility. Speak with patience. Speak from a gentle spirit. Speak peacefully. Speak life into another's being. If you feel evil in your heart toward another person, it is better to remain silent and to ask God for the grace to help you forgive, than it is to harden your heart, spread destruction, and utter violence against another’s soul.
“In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold.”