As we all know, the words we use carry enormous power; for good or for evil. And it is the topic of our next verse. “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear” Eph 4:29.
The word translated “unwholesome” here literally means “rotten”. Speaking words that are rotten is speaking words that bring death, not life, to a given situation. Rotten words bring discouragement, not joy to a spouse, child, or friend. Speaking words that are rotten bring shame and insult instead of respect and appreciation to those under our influence.
Our five children are all grown and married. Some of them now have children of their own. They live all over the country from Colorado Springs to Boston to Houston to Dallas to Aledo, Texas. I point this out because even at these great distances, they are a very loyal company of brothers and sisters. And I trace that loyalty straight back to their mom.
When our children were growing up, Rhonda had – and still has – an incredible instinct for seeing the road ahead. And one of the insights she zeroed in on was that sibling rivalry would be a killer to the family loyalty we sought to develop. So we worked on a plan to minimize sibling rivalry. Our goal was to go beyond just teaching our kids to “get along”. We wanted to stretch them to the next level of actually enjoying and being an encouragement to each other.
At the heart of this effort were the words Rhonda taught our children to use in their everyday interactions with each other. They simply were not allowed to use words of insult, words of hate, words that were dismissive, or words of oppression over each other.
The reward for this focus has been a loyal and connected family even into our kid’s adult years. The brothers and sisters truly love each other. Even with their new locations and varying family needs and situations, they miss each other when one is away from a gathering. We humbly recognize that this loyalty, and unity, and love is a clear gift from God. But as parents who lead, God uses our efforts to contribute to the outcome.
Now all of this focus and instruction on how our kids were allowed to talk to each other would have fallen on deaf ears if Rhonda and I did not practice what we preached. We were careful in our own words to be affirming and life-giving. Rhonda in particular as the one at home was such an influence with her words. And these words of edification did not go unnoticed by our kids.
Recently two of our children were at Annie’s house in Aledo for a random visit. They sent their mom a selfie of the three of them with big smiles on their faces. The accompanying text was a thank you for something specific that Rhonda had taught them growing up. For them to take the time to acknowledge Rhonda’s gift to them from years ago was a beautiful reward for her earlier investment in them.
Now, there were times when Rhonda or I chose hurtful words in anger. When we did, we admitted it and expressed apologies to each other or to our children. The offense was talked about and forgiven. Even this was part of teaching our kids that our words matter.
We have just scratched the surface of the power and joy hidden in the words of this verse about our speech. We will explore some other aspects of words that edify next time.