Taming the Tongue
When my kids were little there were many ways that I would correct them verbally:
“No, don’t touch that.”
“Come here right now.”
“No dessert for you.”
“Go to your room.”
“Go, sit in time out.”
All of these phrases had their uses and were to some degree, effective. But the phrase that really cut all four of my children to the heart was the last one. Somehow, in just those two short syllables I was able to express such displeasure, such disappointment, such annoyance! When my children were under the age of five, those two short syllables were by far the strongest words I could ever use. Inevitably, the guilty child would begin to cry because my words said, “Uh! Uh!” but my tone said, “What’s wrong with you? I’m disappointed in you. I can’t believe you just did that!”
Words and the tone behind them are so powerful! With them I can exhort my child to reach new heights, and with them I can tear down my child’s tender heart. Take yesterday for an example:
Yesterday was supposed to be an easy day. Only one of my four children was home, so my plan was to give him an easy workload and we’d have a half day of school. We’d have fun visiting with someone in the afternoon; then we’d go out later and watch my older son play soccer.
That was what was supposed to happen, but didn’t. One of the “easy” assignments I gave my child was to him, quite challenging. What was supposed to take him one hour actually led to three.
Our “free” afternoon was gone. Our pleasant visit didn’t really happen, and my “easy” day came crashing down. Unfortunately, what made the day worse was my attitude. My questions, “We’ve talked about this before. Why don’t you understand? Why is this taking you so long?” carried such a tone of displeasure, disappointment, and annoyance! And my words really implied, “What’s wrong with you? I’m disappointed in you. I can’t believe you don’t get this!”
No, I didn’t curse at my child, yell, or degrade him with my words. Nevertheless, my child’s spirit was crushed. My words may not have said much, but my tone said everything.
Not to say my child wasn’t responsible for the lack of work completion. He certainly was (at least partially). But my Creator is just as interested in my response to his difficult day as his response to an unwanted, difficult assignment.
When I look at scripture I am often amazed at some of the annoying, frustrating, stupid things the disciples asked and did.
Matthew 15:33 “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?” (The disciples asked this question when Jesus fed the 4000, shortly after his disciples had just seen him feed the 5000.)
Matthew 26:25 “Then Judas, the one who would betray him said, ‘Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you!”‘ (Here Judas asked such an obvious question! Why did he even bother?)
Mark 10:35-37 “Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” (Really? That’s pretty obnoxious, don’t you think?)
Yet, each ridiculous question or comment, each difficult day, Jesus answers in a patient, loving way. Even Judas is spoken to with dignity. Complete, sometimes painful truth is revealed in his answers, yet love is communicated as well.
“Taming the Tongue” continues to be a long, difficult process in me. I am so thankful the Lord is as patient with me and my poor responses to my children as he was to his disciples and their frustrating words.
In His grace, God has shown me the following as well:
- When Jesus died on the cross, he died to cleanse me of all my sin — even my dreaded tongue! I’m so thankful for his forgiveness.
- Stopping and asking my Lord for help in the middle of a difficult conversation with one of my children is better than asking for forgiveness afterwords!
- First thing in the morning, I need to pray, read the Bible, and ask God specifically to help me respond to my children in a Godly, loving way. Coming to my King on my knees before we start school is the best way to start the day.
- Asking my children for forgiveness for my attitude (even if they are partly to blame!) honors my Lord, encourages my children, and reminds them that I’m a sinner too, in need of my Savior’s daily forgiveness.
- The following scriptures have been a blessing to me:
James 1:19 “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry”
1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.“
Proverbs 15:4 “The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.“
Proverbs 18:21 “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.“
Child of God, have you been struggling with your tongue as well? With your responses to your children as you homeschool? Remember that He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion. May His Word encourage you today as you strive to honor our King in your daily life with your beautiful Children-Treasures.
Copyright October 8th, 2014 by Gwen Fredette