- He’s a bully.
- She’s a ‘mean girl.’
- ‘If you were prettier, I wouldn’t look at other women.’
- ‘You would be more of a man if you made more money.’
- ‘You have to do what I say because I am the head of the family.’
All of the above statements reveal the biggest misunderstood type of abuse, verbal abuse. Verbal abuse happens when an individual chooses to use words to manipulate, coerce, or to control another person. They use insults, criticism, anger, blame, accusation, ordering them around, minimization of victim’s emotions and value, degrading, or threats.
Life or Death in Our Words
Jesus tells us. ‘The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.’ Proverbs 18:21 NIV. Many of us may recognize that some words hurt and wound. However, we need to understand how we are being abusive or when other people are abusing us by understanding the following categories of verbal abuse.
In the summarized article in Psychology Today, The Verbally Abusive Relationship, Patricia Evans identifies the following categories of verbal abuse.
- Withholding information, thoughts, and feelings.
- Countering and discounting. The abuser dismisses, discounts, or denies the victims feelings, thoughts, and experiences and turns them as wrong.
- Verbal abuse rationalized as jokes. Any disrespect is abuse and not a joke.
- Blocking and diverting. Controlling what the victim can talk about and then when they can talk.
- Accusing and blaming the victim for things outside of her control, or they may accuse them of being flirtatious or adulterous without any truth.
- Judging and criticizing are statements that start with ‘you.’
- Trivializing and undermining are tactics used to make the victim doubt their dreams, goals, feelings, and abilities.
- Threats against you or your children or pets to keep you in control.
- Name-calling that is disrespectful, degrading, and dishonoring, or to mock you. ‘You are such a victim.’ One of the favorite words of an abuser is ‘bitch’
- Overlooking or forgetting dates and promises and turning any accountability into the victim’s fault.
- Denial of abusive behavior and failing to realize or face the consequences of their abusive behavior. Abusers will always use justification to rationalize their behavior.
- Any form of yelling or screaming at someone is abusive.
Take a Personal Inventory of Our Words
We are not born with the truth, love, and the fruits of the Holy Spirit inside of us. We grow up learning what love is and what is acceptable in relationships from the messages we hear, the role models we have, and from our personal experiences. Even when we accept Jesus into our hearts, we are not instantly downloaded with all of his words, heart, and actions. Our transformation into his likeness comes as we learn who he is in a growing personal relationship with him every day.
It is our responsibility as Christ’s disciples to learn about our faith, his love, heart, and character by studying God’s word, as we praise him, as we pray, and we follow his example. Our faith and love for Jesus is an action. The closer we are to Jesus, the more we will see the words that we have come to accept as normal or okay, are in truth, abusive. As we see Christ’s love design and we choose to live in it, we will speak words of life, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
To speak words of life like Jesus, we must take an inventory of the words we have come to accept as okay or normal? Let’s look at the phrase, ‘Bless your little heart.’ This phrase comes from the Southern United States. It is primarily used as a hidden way to say someone is not smart. Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!” Proverbs 26:18-19 ESV
We Will Be Held Accountable for Our Words
But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. Matthew 12:36 NIV The Hebrew definition of ‘word,’ covers a ‘negative intention or desire within a word.’ When you choose to be negative to hurt someone, God knows. When you choose to love and live like Christ, you don’t have to worry about the words you speak.
As Christ’s disciples, we are instructed to share his hope, love, and saving message with the world. We are set apart as children of God which means our words will be different than the worlds. We are called to speak words of life.
Christ Shows Us How to Speak Words of Life
There is no way to stop speaking the way you have been speaking for years unless you work with Jesus every day. There are three steps to help you use words of life. The first step is to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV
The second step is to proclaim that you will only speak words of life, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Third, to change our words, we must change our thinking patterns by practicing steps one and two. ‘And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.’ Philippians 4:8 NLT
We must remember that we will receive the words we sow into other people’s lives. ‘Your own soul is nourished when you are kind, but you destroy yourself when you are cruel.’ Proverbs 11:17 TLB Choose to be wise and speak words of life!