“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
Charles F. Stanley has written an excellent book entitled Surviving in an Angry World (Howard Books, 2010). He points out; anger is a God-given emotion. We all become angry, but what counts is what we do with our anger – our behavior – that especially includes our speech. I love the old hymn, “Angry words, oh let them never from the tongue unbridled slip.” Sadly, our society admires someone with a quick wit who has mastered the art of the “put-down.”
My grandmother reminded me, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” This was one occasion where granny was wrong. Words do wound, and some of those taunts follow us into adulthood. I once had a beautiful friend whose portrait by Andrew Wyeth was published in Life Magazine, but if you talked with Christina, she didn’t think she was beautiful. You see, the boys in Junior High made fun of her legs and called her “Stumps.” That nickname tragically colored her self-image through adulthood.
You may think your harsh words anger only the person to whom you are speaking. But your harsh words stir up anger in you as well. It’s as if your opinions about the other person become solidified in your own heart as you speak harshly. The net result is that a negative attitude takes firmer root in you. Once you have spoken harshly to a person, it becomes much easier to speak harshly to him or her in the future. You’re also more likely to talk that way to others who irritate or frustrate you.
But Stanley included a thought I hadn’t considered before. All-day long we have dialogs with ourselves. We may even become angry, and then our self-talk can become toxic. He writes:
Just about everyone I know talks to himself or herself throughout the day. Sometimes our self-talk is a form of self-instruction. We remind ourselves how to perform a specific task or not to forget something important. We may be encouraging ourselves to control our own attitudes and behavior. But many times, self-talk takes the form of self-criticism.
Do you speak to yourself in gentle tones – encouraging yourself to do better and to live according to the highest and most noble standard?
Or do you put yourself down and speak words of criticism and judgment over yourself?
Perhaps today, we need to listen to our Father’s voice: “Well done, good and faithful servant!”