Okay friends, this week is actually very similar to last week’s theme as the topic still concerns our tongues. It’s funny how the tongue is perhaps one of the smallest parts of our body, and yet it holds such power. The old adage goes “it takes years to build up trust and seconds to tear it down.” Why? Most of the time the culprit is the tongue. Words can build up and encourage, but they can also tear down and abuse. They can heal hurts, but they can also inflict pain. They can flatter, but they can also falter.
All of us have been guilty of complaining at one time or another. Sometimes we don’t even voice a complaint itself, but we ask a question that lets people know we disapprove. Or sometimes we make a mocking statement and our voice gives us away. This can be really hurtful and damaging to any friendship. When a friend constantly criticizes you, even in a way that can be seemingly harmless or “all in good fun” it really impacts how we view them and what we then think about our friendship. The same can be said about a marriage. If a spouse constantly nags you or belittles you, it affects the level of respect you give to them. A wife does not want to submit to a husband who consistently sees her as inferior or “second-class.” A husband does not want to unconditionally love a wife who only sees his faults and doesn’t show gratitude or respect for his hard work and effort. And when this happens, the marriage falls apart. Instead of making a beautiful melody, we hear discordant screeches that sound vaguely like alley cats.
This week, my challenge is once again to hold your tongue, but not just that – replace criticism with something positive. Here’s what I mean. If you’re married, your spouse might come home after work late. Maybe you are angry because you think he should have been home an hour earlier. You had planned a lovely dinner and now your food is getting cold. The ambiance and romantic mood seem completely wasted. Instead of lashing out at him and saying “where were you? I was expecting you an hour ago!” Hold your tongue, take a deep breath, and think of a positive. Maybe say something like “Honey, I’m so glad you made it home safe. That weather outside looked so bad. Thank you for putting in that extra time at work in order to bring home some more money this week. I really appreciate having a hard working man in my life like you.”
Or suppose (just to be completely stereotypical) that your wife has just gotten back from a shopping spree with her girlfriends. Instead of arguing with her about how she “wasted” her (or your) money, compliment her. Say “Honey, I’m so glad you had a lovely time with your friends today. That new dress you bought looks absolutely stunning. I’m so impressed that I’ve married a beautiful lady like you with extremely good taste!”
If your single and you find yourself butting heads with a friend this week, instead of criticizing them, think of all the positive attributes they bring to your friendship and thank them for at least one or two. Say “you know, we may not see eye-to-eye on this one issue that I know is so important to you, but I’m so glad to have you in my life. I’ve always appreciated that you’re unique and your own person. I really value hearing your contributions. You always give me a completely different way of seeing things. One that I would never have considered before. Thank you for that.” Then change the topic to something the two of you can actually agree on.
Just for this week, for these next 7 days, try your hardest not to complain – not once. Don’t complain to your boss about not wanting to work on that extra project, don’t complain to your co-worker about submitting those reports a week late, don’t complain to your kids about muddying up their soccer jerseys, don’t complain to your church about the stale bread at the potluck. Don’t even complain to God for not answering your prayers the way you wanted at the time you wanted. Every time you are tempted to complain, substitute it with a praise. I look forward to hearing how God will shape your life and reignite a passionate love in your marriage and your friendships as a result of this challenge. Happy praising!