In my shop, there is a large toolbox with a wide variety of tools for various applications. I am well equipped to repair cars, electronics, plumbing, and all manner of other household “honey-do” type jobs. Perhaps the simplest and most versatile of the tools I own is my hammer. To be fair, I have several different hammers, each with its own specific application. I have a hammer for knocking dents out of metal, one for driving nails, a sledge hammer for demolishing things, even a slide hammer that pulls things outward instead of pushing things forward. Like any weekend warrior mechanic, my hammer also does double and triple duty for all sorts of other tasks that aren’t necessarily hammer specific. In the marital toolbox, there is a similar tool that can be used in a wide variety of ways, both constructive and destructive. That tool is the power of our words. This tool is not dissimilar to the hammer in that it is frequently the most powerful tool we employ. The book of Proverbs speaks of the tongue as possessing the power of life and death. James speaks of the tongue as a spark with the power to set the world on fire. I am certain that most married couples can recall instances when a few poorly chosen words set their world on fire with arguments that went on for days. The key to using a hammer properly is using at the right time and in the right way.
- Words of Affirmation: Perhaps one of the most powerful ways we can use our words to positively impact our marriage is through affirmation. Compliments, expressions of thanks, “I love you,” questions about our partner’s day that show genuine interest, and all manner of other affirmations can build good will and encourage a more positive relationship environment.
- Knocking Down Conflicts: Conflicts are often a result of poor communication. Misunderstandings often lead to hurt feelings, which lead to resentments. Talking out issues in a calm and loving manner can dismantle this sort of destructive trend in relationships.
- Apology: Conflict can harden our hearts and lead to ongoing issues in a relationship. This is particularly the case when reconciliation doesn’t take place after fights. Apologizing and taking responsibility for words and actions can soften a hardening heart.
- Reminders: It’s easy to reach a point, when arguing, that both spouses take a me-against-you stance. Over the years, one or both partners become entrenched and constantly assume an adversarial attitude. Strategically reminding your spouse that you are on the same team is vital.
- Tone: In the same way a hammer can be used to tap or pound, our tone of voice alters the message that our words convey. This is particularly important to note while arguing. Anger raises our voices, shouting leads to chemical/emotional responses in our partner, which escalates the situation. Learning to control our volume and tone is key to using our words properly.
These are just a few of the ways the well chosen words can positively shape a marriage. The real challenge is in learning to control our words. This is far from easy. In reality, poorly chosen words can act as a hammer in their ability to inflict damage on a relationship. Angry words, cutting remarks, and forcing your way through aggressive arguing can destroy a relationship in the same manner a sledge hammer is used to demolish. Perhaps the book of James puts it best when it directs us to put a bridle on our tongues. Bridles are used to restrain and direct horses. The same is true of our words. They are powerful and need to be restrained. However, their power can be directed to great effect.