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Words, and how they build or destroy our relationships

Monday April 15 2019

couple arguing, couple fighting

Instead of speaking angrily, wisdom requires that we be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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In my time of reflection, I read from the writings of King Solomon, who says; “A fool’s lips enter into contention and his mouth calls for blows.” In another place, he says, “The power of life and death are in the tongue.” An environment for toxic relationships can be created. How we use our words and the way we interpret what has been said is what will fuel or put out the fire of bad words in a relationship. Generally, many spouses say things that they later regret or find it hard to reconcile with, because of the damage those words have done. As I read these two phrases, it is clear that words are powerful. Our thoughts also impact what we manifest through our spoken words.

Containers of power

The words we speak can affirm or tear down a person. Joyce Meyers considers words to be containers of power. Thinking carefully and reflecting on what we say is key. In relationships, there are moments we go through good or bad moments. Our reaction or inaction to events that dot our marriage life is key to producing the results we see. The painful, emotionally low moments and physically difficult times in the relationships that we fail to resolve can build up like a volcano. During these moments, we may feel like we have been deprived and denied, depressed and defeated or even demeaned and disgraced by our partner. As a result we feel resentment, bitterness, and bursting forth of anger.

An anonymous person cautions, “Don’t mix your words with your mood; you can change your mood but you can’t take back your words.” Our moods are on the run every day. In any moment during such mood swings, people find themselves using language that could edify or be abusive. Abusive language can hurt. For example, “I don't even know why I married you” … “I hate you” … “In fact, a divorce is good for us.” Even in times when healing would have been a possibility, such statements have the capacity of planting seeds of discord and mistrust in the other person.

How we hurt each other

During these uncontrollable moments, spouses find themselves using demeaning words, “I should have married so and so instead of you.” The temptation during such low moments is to react in a way to hurt the other person. However, by doing so, we end up saying some things that injure the relationship and damage the home environment. With time, we live to regret what we said; because words lead to actions. This is a downhill momentum that at times is hard to reverse. Because it is harder to undo the injuries or pain caused, we need to guard our hearts from which all things flow.


Listen to words carefully

Instead of speaking angrily, wisdom requires that we be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. The assumption here is that, when words are spoken, they have a meaning they convey, an intended meaning that they poses, and a transcribed meaning we get when we consider all the factors. So, we need to be quick to listen to what we hear. How we respond matters because this is what gives the direction the relationship will take. Consequently, paying attention to what is said and making sure we understand both what was said and the intention behind it is important.

There are moments you will read fatigue in a communication and thereafter chose to respond differently even though it appeared harsh. We should not be preoccupied by other things and miss out the point of the communication. Many of us are selective hearers. We need to avoid selective hearing and approach hearing from a holistic view.

Take your time before reacting

Second, we need to be slow to react. It is always better to take time before we speak than to hurry and end up hurting the relationship. Taking time makes one consider both the positive and negative consequences of their reaction. When we take time to listen, we are also able to consider what was said and the context in which it was said. It is possible to discover whether the other person was under some pressure to say what they said.

Knowing where the other person is coming from is key to how we respond to them. Remember, an argument for the sake of it is not productive for any relationship. Taking time to respond helps us separate our empty emotions from a response that is loaded with wisdom and grace — even when the other person does not deserve it.

Finally, being slow to anger has everything about processing what has been said and making the choice to not react out of context and in anger. The fruit of the Spirit calls for us to tame our tongue. Great relationships have been killed or ruined out of improper responses by spouses. Yes, we can be wounded. But two wrongs don't make a right. Where there has been gross misbehaviour, we can still part ways but in a civilised manner without causing unnecessary chaos. Therefore let us overcome evil with good.

As a husband, father, counsellor, pastor and mentor, I have encountered many families hurting from bad language or the use of words without due consideration. This is what this topic is about: the role of communication in a family and how it dictates the health of the family and society. My philosophy is that, when it comes to marriage, it takes the man and his wife to love and respect each other because marriage is a ‘We Affair”.

Be mindful of your partner

It is sad when a partner within the relationship begins to feel used or abused. This builds up a feeling of not being an integral part of the relationship. With this in mind, relationship should never be reduced to a commodity to achieve an end. No one within the relationship should feel like they are not important. As much as we desire to communicate value, our words and actions must match. Culture that is value-based in relationships intersects the essence of what it means to be human. In return, this helps us learn to value and build each other above other relationships. Consequently, your spouse must be seen to be of greater importance and not a tool in our hands. When we show value, respect and affirmation through our words and actions to people, they feel an important part of the relationship.