According to Psychology Today, “When doctors and therapists teach patients to turn negative thoughts and worries into positive affirmations, the communication process improves, and the patient regains self-control and confidence. But there’s a problem: The brain barely responds to our positive words and thoughts. They’re not a threat to our survival, so the brain doesn’t need to respond as rapidly as it does to negative thoughts and words.“1 So, why is it that God specifically gives us negative “don’t” instructions in His Word? I can think of a couple reasons, in response to this. Do you notice how the quote says, “the patient regains self-control and confidence,” through positive affirmations? “Self-control” is meant to be produced in cooperation with the Spirit of God, Who empowers us to do things outside of what we can do on our own; this quote gives the false hope that we ever had or can have self-control through our own manufacturing. Also, if our “brain barely responds to our positive words and thoughts,” God knowingly, as the Designer and Creator of our physical form, wanted to give us parameters for our behavior in order to be a proper reflection of Him; and negative words can encourage a quicker reaction to what He’s said.
We’ve already spent a good chunk of time, looking at what love is (if you’ve missed it, feel free to look back at the last three posts). In order to gain a full understanding of love, we need to expose what it isn’t. Verses 4-8 of 1 Corinthians 13 inform us of what love doesn’t do. Let’s take a look at several of them.
“Do not seek your own good, but the good of the other person [the one who is different from you].”1 Corinthians 10:24 NETB
I’m going to stop here. Not only is this enough to take in, but the LORD is hitting me with an ample amount to confess and work through! We’ll pick up next post on the rest of the “don’t” list.
1 Newberg, Andrew M.D. and Mark Waldman. “Why This Word Is So Dangerous to Say or Hear.” Psychology Today, 1 August 2012, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/words-can-change-your-brain/201208/why-word-is-so-dangerous-say-or-hear.
“I LOVE that sweater!”
“Look how soft this blanket is! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!”
“How ya doin’, LOVE?”
Love…We throw that word around pretty casually, don’t we? My hubby and I just celebrated our wedding anniversary this week. It still amazes me how someone can love me SO much…I mean, truly love, like he does!
Many throw “love” around readily, but do they…do we…really understand what love is? If we do, do we live it out?
To understand love, we have to understand God and what He has to say about it, because He IS love! He’s been directing me this week to dive into a well-known passage (1 Corinthians 13). Please don’t leave, if you’ve already studied it a million times before. I really believe God is going to put a nugget in here that will be new to you, personally…and possibly even challenging. We won’t get through the whole chapter in this post, but we’re going to take in a small, but meaty, chunk. Let’s go!
First John 4:8 says that “…God is love.” The Greek word for “love” in this verse is the exact same word that’s used in 1 Corinthians 13:1– “agapé.” When we read about love in both of these verses, we’re really reading about God–and what HE prefers, which is what “agapé” (love) means. Can we sit here for a minute? Too often, we can focus on what WE want, what WE think we deserve, why We are right…When we focus on WE or ME, we lose the point of love…to focus on GOD and what HE chooses. Let’s dig in to see what it is that He does prefer.
Verse 1–I can praise God with my words, just as men and angels do, but if I don’t show the affection and kindness God wants me to show; if I don’t mean well; if I’m not friendly, helpful, and cooperative; I’m just makin’ a bunch of sounds that sure do sound like noise. My shouts, complaints, and loud arguing sound like war cries.
Verse 2–If I have the ability to hear God clarify His truth and proclaim it to others with confidence, to know all the secrets God has revealed as well as applied all the knowledge God has given me, and if I have come to trust in all that God has persuaded me is His will [I know this seems a weird way to say this, but “faith” comes from a word that means “be persuaded”]…so much so, that I could change the place of mountains (aka accomplish extremely challenging, impressive, notable, and unimaginable things), but I don’t show the affection and kindness God wants me to show; if I don’t mean well; if I’m not friendly, helpful, and cooperative; I’m nothing…At this time, I’m not the “someone” I think I am, and what I do (and do not do) now can have implications on the future.
Verse 3–If I give my crumbs to feed people, person by person, until all I have rule over has been given to feed little bits of food to others, and if I decide to hand over my whole body to be consumed with fire, but don’t mean well and am not friendly, helpful, nor cooperative, my actions have done nothing to help me!
We’re going to stop there today. We’ll pick up with Verse 4 next post. I’d love to hear how God spoke to you or what was fresh and new for your heart today. Leave a comment/reply!
A close friend and I were talking last week about eyes and how sensitive they are. She said that you can get dirt on your skin, and it doesn’t bother you. However, you get a speck of dirt in your eye, and it hurts and is annoying!…Isn’t this the truth? The eye is a complicated organ with many parts. It lets you know when light is present and changes the direction of light rays as they pass through different parts of the eye. It lets us take in what’s around us, while sending messages to the brain, interpreting what we see. It’s full of nerves that also send messages to the brain, warning us when a contaminant shows up that wants to affect how we see or hurt the eye itself.
Does anyone else get annoyed when your eyes are dilated at the ophthalmologist’s office?!? Feeling rather blinded and ultra sensitive to light doesn’t feel very helpful to me. Sometimes I wonder why I willingly allow them to do that to me!
According to “the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness’s Vision Atlas (a compilation of the very latest eye health data),…globally, there are 43 million people living with blindness and 295 million people living with moderate-to-severe visual impairment.”1 Over 76% of these people are living with avoidable blindness or impairment, because they have the inability to access the right help.
“As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed them. Two blind men were sitting by the road. When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they shouted, ‘Have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David!’ The crowd scolded them to get them to be quiet, but they shouted even more loudly, ‘Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!’ Jesus stopped, called them, and said, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, let our eyes be opened.’ Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed Him.”Matthew 20:29-34 NETB
There are a number of things that stand out to me about this passage.
“The LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.”Psalm 146 8 ESV
“Blind,” here, is like a film over the eyes, physically OR in a spiritual sense. It’s referring to those who are helpless or incapable; weak or disabled; friendless; or searching (either mentally or physically) with difficulty, hesitation, or uncertainty.
Posture is extremely important to the LORD, but I’m not talking sitting or standing up straight. It has a lot to do with humility, recognizing His ability, and accepting our inability. He has compassion for and chooses to raise up those who are stretched out on the ground, with their face down before Him, as well as those bowed down in more of an arched or curved position because of anxiety; pain; or sorrow due to loss, disappointment, unfortunate circumstance, limitation, illness, physical appearance, situation/event, or embarrassment/shame.
“Love,” in this verse, means having an affection for, which can include showing physical expressions of affection. The LORD has an affection for those who are cleansed by Jesus’ blood and who turn to and do the right thing in the eyes of God; this includes not only what one does or says, but also the attitude in which it’s done/said.
1“GLOBAL BLINDNESS WAS SLOWING PRIOR TO PANDEMIC STUDY REVEALS.” Orbis, https://www.orbis.org/en/news/2021/new-global-blindness-data. Accessed 22 August 2021.
I’ve been sitting with this for a couple weeks, now, and WOW! The LORD has given me a LOT to experience and observe!! In fact, one example is a statement, which was directly addressed to me! I’ve been known to tell my family and some friends, “If I’m doing that, I wanna know!” Well, someone whom I love deeply took me up on that and told me the truth in love. I did/do want to know…but it doesn’t take the sting out of being confronted with the truth that I hurt people and need to change!
Interrupting…That’s what I was called out on. Ugh!!
Years ago, I was a Technical Recruiter. My job was to find, recruit, screen, and submit the best qualified candidates for technology positions our clients had open, walk those chosen through the interview and hiring processes, and maintain contact with those who landed jobs throughout their employment. In order to execute the recruiting process as quickly as possible, I learned some not-so-great communication skills in order to get certain questions answered speedily. If someone got a bit long-winded, I learned to interject a question to efficiently lead them through the screening questions in order to see if they were right for the job. I was searching and listening for the answers I needed out of the conversation. It’s amazing how a little over three years of “listening” this way changed me for years to come! It socked me in the gut to learn that, 15 years later, I was still doing it…interjecting, finishing people’s sentences to keep things moving, and leading along the conversation to answer what I wanted or needed to hear. Sigh.
The LORD used this loving confrontation to speak to me about many voids in positive communication that we, probably, all have experienced at one point or another…and maybe even DO ourselves! Have you experienced or observed any of the following situations this week…or maybe even done a handful?
Different sayings related to positive communication have been spoken much, but have they been heard?…Listen first; then speak!… We have two ears and one mouth for a reason!
Someone Whom you love deeply (and Who loves YOU deeply enough to say it–God Himself) also has some things to say about communication!!
“When there are many words, transgression and offense [against individuals] are unavoidable, but he who controls his lips and keeps thoughtful silence is wise.”Proverbs 10:19 AB
“The one who guards his mouth [thinking before he speaks] protects his life; the one who opens his lips wide [and chatters without thinking] comes to ruin.”Proverbs 13:3 BSB
“A wise person’s heart controls his speech, and what he says helps others learn.”Proverbs 16:23 GWT
“With his mouth, the godless man destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge and discernment the righteous will be rescued.”Proverbs 11:9 AB
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”Proverbs 12:18 ESV
“A soft and gentle and thoughtful answer turns away wrath, but harsh and painful and careless words stir up anger.”Proverbs 15:1 AB
“The tongue of the wise makes knowledge attractive, but the mouth of fools blurts out foolishness.”Proverbs 15:2 CSB
“The heart of the righteous weighs answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes out evil.”Proverbs 15:28 NHEB
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding but only in disclosing what is on his mind.”Proverbs 18:2 NETB
“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”Proverbs 29:11 ESV
“Whoever gives an answer before he listens is stupid and shameful.”Proverbs 18:13 GWT
“Do you see someone who speaks too soon? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”Proverbs 29:20 CSB
“The words of a gossip are swallowed greedily, and they go down into a person’s innermost being.”Proverbs 18:8 GWT
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it and indulge it will eat its fruit and bear the consequences of their words.”Proverbs 18:21 AB
“If a person thinks that he is religious but can’t control his tongue, he is fooling himself. That person’s religion is worthless.”James 1:26 GWT
“But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes ‘ or ‘No, no;’ anything beyond these is of evil.”Matthew 5:37 NASB 1995
“Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up the one in need and bringing grace to those who listen.”Ephesians 4:29 BSB
“Let your speech at all times be gracious and pleasant, seasoned with salt, so that you will know how to answer each one [who questions you].”Colossians 4:6 AB
“You know this, my dearly-loved brethren. But let every one be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to be angry.“James 1:19 WNT
“My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.”1 John 3:18 GNT
As you engage in conversations today, think about what you’re communicating through your words, tone, facial expressions, body language, and listening (or lack thereof):
I used to envy teachers. Not only did they get to write on a chalkboard or markerboard, but they got to correct papers (how naive was I?!?)! I’d see corrections in red on a paper or test and think they were beautiful…as long as they were on someone else’s paper or test!
Then came my freshman year of college. I wrote my first paper for my English class and felt pretty confident about it…until I received it back from the professor. I remember it like it was yesterday. There was red all over the first page, and the letter grade at the top (also in bright red) wasn’t anything close to what I was used to!! My heart sunk. Those red markings weren’t so beautiful on my paper! As I re-read the paper with the prof’s corrections, I began to see how the changes he made were making me and my writing better. I approached him with corrections I didn’t understand, and he explained why what I wrote wasn’t fitting. That paper gave me the opportunity to accept or reject criticism. If I accepted it as constructive, it would improve the way I wrote. If I dismissed it as he didn’t know what he was talking about with a, “Who does he think he is to touch my paper with his red pen?!?” response, I would’ve remained stagnant. I chose to accept the critiques.
Ask my parents, my kids, or my hubby! I LOVE me a red pen, even if it’s only in my head!! If I’m reading an article, a book, or a PowerPoint slide and find an error, I’m elated!! I homeschooled our kids for six years, and I relished the moments our daughter would come to me and say, “Mom!! I found a typo!!” She, too, had a discerning spirit…
Is that what I was breeding? A discerning spirit…or a critical one? I was always looking for ways to make something better or “right,” but I realized that my standard, oftentimes, was my own…the way I would do it.
Have you ever taught a child how to do a job around the house? I’d explain, as I showed them how to complete it; they’d forget or be in a hurry; I’d come back to check it when they were “done,” and things weren’t executed the way I’d shown them. I began to see how corrections could be destructive or instructive; a lot (not all) depended on the heart of the one hearing and if he or she wanted to learn. Nitpicking when they were close didn’t encourage them, and letting something go wasn’t teaching them. For me, this was a tightrope line to walk…and it still is, as I seek to bring an awareness to how they work, they’re motive for getting the job done, and Who they’re working for, while also seeing the way they’re wired and accepting their best.
Here are some verses that check my heart in these situations to see if my invisible red pen is active to instruct or destruct:
“I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV
15“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, 16from Whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow, so that it builds itself up in love.”Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV
“The good person, out of the good treasure of his heart, produces good, and the evil person, out of his evil treasure, produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks.”Luke 6:45 ESV
These verses help me ask some hard questions about myself, taking the red pen to my life first. It’s not only worth assessing to grow my relationship with my kids; it’s also important for their relationship with work and others! Needless to say, I need to ask these questions when it comes to my interactions with others, as well!
Thank you, Lord, for continuing to pursue what You have for me, making the corrections in me that You see need to be made (’cause there are many)! Thank you for the love and patience with which You instruct me! Please keep reminding me of these questions, so I can demonstrate Your heart better to anyone I come in contact with! Amen.