Why do we let words crush our soul? We give words so much power.
1. We must guard our hearts against toxic words.
The tongue is a thermometer; it gives us our spiritual temperature.
It is also a thermostat; it regulates our spiritual temperature.
Control of the tongue can mean everything.
Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline
Proverbs 4:23 – “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
In ancient Hebrew thought, the heart referred to more than just the center of emotions. It included the “entire inner life of a person” — everything we might describe as psychological, spiritual, intellectual, and emotional. To guard your heart, then, is to guard the essence of who God created you to be.
Toxic words, are words that lodge in the heart and cause deep wounds. When we internalize these words, we allow them to distort the truth about who we are — and that impacts everything we think and do.
Have you ever been victim to someone piercing your soul with words? As an intern in youth ministry, a pastor who hurt me with words back in 1996, once said, “Reid, you’re like a SQUARE PEG trying to fit into a ROUND hole.”
Proverbs 18:21a – “The tongue has the power of life and death”.
A toxic substance is something that causes serious harm or even death. Toxikon, the Greek origin of the English word “toxic,” refers to an archer’s bow armed with a poison arrow.
As a missionary kid, I grew up in Central America. The custom of the tribes in various jungle settings there, was to poison the tip of the wooden blow-dart, so when it hits a monkey in a tree, the toxin would paralyze it, and it would fall from the trees.
Toxic words do the same to our soul. They pierce like a dart, paralyze us and make us fall, we lose our grip.
The Bible contrasts life-giving words and toxic words:
Proverbs 12:18 – “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (NIV).
Proverbs 15:4 – “The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit” (NIV).
… we need to learn to “guard our heart” against hurtful words.
2. Take out the trash and leave it by the curb.
Pastor Craig Groeschel writes in Soul Detox (p 60), “When someone says something to or about you, train yourself to categorize the words as “Truth or Trash”. Analyze the message and source before swallowing and digesting what someone else wants to feed you. Are their words true? Based in Scripture? Supported by data over time? If so, embrace them. Allow those life-giving words to minister to your soul and conform you to the image of Christ. If their words are untrue, mean-spirited, and critical without being constructive, then call them what they are — toxic waste. Reject those words. Don’t let them into your soul. Take out the trash and leave it by the curb. Delete toxic words and insert the truth.”
A pastor friend of mine, says it this way… People who live in the past will always use the present to resist the future.
The “Square peg in a round hole” – limits my future
Truth vs. trash: When people speak words about you, is what they say true? If so, believe it and embrace it. If it’s trash, reject it.
Take a moment to recall a recent or past occasion when you were careless or misleading with your self-words. For example, you said something unkind, had an angry outburst, or spun the truth to make yourself look better.
How might have you internalized what you said? In other words, how might your careless or misleading words have harmed your heart by distorting the truth of who you are?
Don’t internalize the toxic words that others speak about you. Guard your heart.
How do we take out the trash?
…learn to be discerning – ask trusted friends – ask Jesus – ask good question
Ephesians 6:12 – “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
The giants in your life are NOT greater than God.
We often give too much power to hurtful words others have said.
We often give too much power to negative words we say to ourselves.
Often we let words defeat us, but there’s a biblical way to address this.
Speak to the “giants” in your life, and defeat them in God’s name.
I’m not speaking of what some churches call “word-faith” doctrine, where if you say something it comes true, like magical powers. I do, however, believe in God’s power behind the words we speak.
1 Samuel 17:45-46 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.”
- GUARD YOUR HEART
- TAKE OUT THE TRASH
3. Speak life-giving words – to yourself & others.
Ephesians 4:29a – “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up”.
Any time you think something positive, say it. Why rob someone of a blessing by keeping a positive statement to yourself?
How do we speak “life-giving” words?
- Be biblical – believe words from God & pray
- Filter before speaking – don’t believe media messaging
- Think other-centered – positive words lift others up
- Lead w/Humility – humbly speak life into others’ lives
When I was being “let go” from the youth ministry internship, I wanted to fight my way out of it and keep the job. I called my friend Wally Norling and asked him if I should fight for my rights. He replied, “You’re not a square peg in a round hole. You are designed to go where God is calling you. Why are you resisting what God might be doing in your life to move you forward?” then he hung up the phone. He spoke life-giving words into my soul.
The four remaining sessions in Soul Detox explore the potentially toxic impact:
- Unhealthy people
- False beliefs
- Popular culture.
These are important topics to be sure, but perhaps even more important are the ways you’ll experience God at work in community. Let’s learn to practice giving and receiving life-giving, heart-guarding, and truth-telling words.