Words. Using the correct word is very important in communicating your message. One wrong word can raise an eyebrow, bring a snicker, or even a hearty laugh. Earlier this week someone mentioned that their daughter-in-law, a young widow, was dating again. They had met on E-Bay. The room broke out into laughter. “Did you mean E-Harmony?” Hmmmm, I’ve never tried E-Bay for that!
If you are familiar with the Five Love Languages you will understand what I mean when I say that my love language is words of affirmation. I feel loved when someone writes an encouraging note. Or when someone compliments my work. But in this morning’s reading from God’s Word a verse jumped out at me: Job 6:25 “How painful are honest words!” If someone speaks honest words to me which show me where I need to improve, or where I need to change, do I feel loved? I should, but often, I don’t. Why is that? Why don’t I understand that honest words, though painful, are meant to help me mature, to grow, to change for the better?
Often in this world today, especially in junior high and high school circles, I see friendships that are made up of people who will take your side against ‘them’ – whoever ‘them’ may be. Don’t say one word against my friend. Why? Is he perfect? Is it a good thing if I tell my piano student “Great job!” after suffering through a song that was unrecognizable? Honest words might be painful, but more appropriate: “Did you have time to practice this week? I think I’ll assign this page again. Now, let’s go over some of the notes.” Does a true friend allow you to keep doing things that are wrong? Sinful? Detrimental? As Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” As a friend do I want you to become useful? (I’m guessing sharp iron is better than dull iron.)
So, then, how do I respond when honest words are painful? The first step seems to be get angry (Who are they to tell me what I did wrong?) or be hurt (tears of self-pity work well here). The next step should be to realize that my anger is wrong (before anyone else tells me!) Unfortunately, my inclination is to find someone else who will agree with my anger and maybe even be angry with that person too. Ah, the joy of being wrong together.
Thankfully, God has blessed me with true friends who speak honest words to me. I remember a time when I went to a friend, hoping for her to support me in my anger. After I explained the circumstances, she quietly responded with the admonition to step back and see if there was some truth in what was said. It was like cold water in my face. And it was the best thing she could have said to me. It allowed me to change my attitude, to honor God with my response, and deepened our friendship because I knew she wanted what was best for me.
It isn’t always easy to respond rightly to painful words. But the alternative is even more painful.
Colossians 4:6 “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”