Are You Defeating Yourself With the Words You Use?


From the time I was able to form intelligible sentences as a small child, my mother taught me to never say the word can’t. “Remove it from your vocabulary”, she scolded me after I emphatically declared that I could not remember my speech for the school play. I was in the fourth grade and all of my handwritten note cards betrayed me as I struggled to bring each line, word by word, into my mind’s focus. I closed my eyes, hoping this would somehow help me to visualize the words on the cards without looking at them. I stole a fleeting glance every few seconds, but it was hard -- very hard -- and in that moment I honestly believed the task to be too great.


Frustrated by my lack of confidence because she knew I could remember the words, my mother instructed me to read each card, one at a time. After I carefully internalized each sentence, I had to give the card back to her and recite the words from memory. I repeated this process with each of the white index cards with blue lines and a single red line at the top. This grueling task continued well into the night until, eventually, I had the entire speech memorized and could recite it verbatim.


Although I was exhausted by the mental acrobatics that threatened to tarnish my love of the English language, I was even more proud of myself and relished in the realization that I could do it. I only needed to tell myself that I could and put in the work. The benefits of the lesson I learned that night have far outlasted the angst it created.


Be careful what you say. Words have power.


Now that I have children of my own, I work, as my mother did with me so many years ago, to ensure they understand the importance of making careful word choices. The Bible lends us great wisdom in this area in Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat of its fruit” (NKJV). As such, in many ways, we are able to shape our circumstances, positively or negatively, simply by the words we use. Are you always saying such things as, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired”? Do you often announce to anyone who will listen that “if not for bad luck I would have no luck at all”? Every time I hear such proclamations, which are in direct opposition to the Word of God, I cringe a little inside.


So, how can you free yourself from the grip of self-defeating language that seems to keep you bound?


Approach every situation you face through the lens of Scripture, and remember who you are and Whose you are. The Bible can be likened to the many owner’s manuals that are all around us. When you purchase a new appliance for your kitchen, you get the owner’s manual. When you buy that shiny new car you’ve always wanted, it comes with an owner’s manual. If you have a problem in a particular area, you consult that section of the manual for the solution. Your Bible should be no different. In fact, it is the ultimate user guide when it comes to navigating the sometimes troublesome terrain that is the Christian walk.


Are you struggling with low self-esteem and speaking unkindly about yourself as a result? Refer to Psalm 139:14 where you’ll find that you are “fearfully and wonderfully made”. You are God’s fine workmanship, created with a divine purpose in mind. You are loved by God and every word you speak about yourself should be a reflection of His love.


Are you angry with someone and really feel the need to give them a “piece of your mind” and you will use whatever language you deem necessary to get your point across? Refer to Ephesians 4:29 to discover that you should “let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers”. You can certainly communicate your feelings or concerns with someone, just be careful of the words you say and how you say them.


So often, we allow idle words to carelessly fall from our lips without considering their impact. We must be deliberate in how we speak and ensure that we use our words to edify and build up -- not to tear down and destroy. You’ve heard it said that “you are what you eat”. The same is true for our words. You are what you speak.


Do you regularly use words and phrases that are negative and don’t agree with the Word of God? What changes are you willing to make today to give your vocabulary a spiritual makeover and speak God’s words over your life?


From this day forward, resolve to speak life, hope and love. Don’t remain silent and “plead the fifth”; speak God’s Word and #pleadthefaith!


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© 2020 Rashawnda Dunbar