Why We Hurt Others with Our Words

By Chip Ingram

Has someone ever said something judgmental and negative behind your back that questioned your motive, integrity or character? If so, how did it make youfeel when you found out about it? Probably pretty rotten, right?

Nothing is more painful than when someone says something about you that is blatantly untrue.

In fact, few things have the power to ruin a relationship like critical, accusing, defaming, hostile and inaccurate or even slanderous words.

All of us can probably think a time when we were hurt by someone’s words. And we probably know of at least one good relationship that was destroyed, achurch that was split, or a family that doesn’t talk any more because of hurtful words.

The Bible is clear that we’re to stop “tearing one another down” by our “slanderous” speech.

Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judgesit. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11-12)

So, what is “slanderous” speech? It’s to say something untrue or negative about another person. More specifically, it’s to say something about someone(that may or may not be true), but when we say it, our motive is to make others think less of that person.

Most of the time, we’re not even aware that we’re even using slanderous speech.

The average Christian talks down others and doesn’t think that they’re not doing anything wrong. It happens in our normal conversation and even in ourprayer requests. Often, it’s not intentional or even willful. It’s the kind of speech that rolls off our tongue and doesn’t ever come to our minds.

We can know if our speech is slanderous if the one who is listening has a lower or negative view of a person we were talking about, as aresult of our conversation.

Why do we wound others with our words? Why do even sincere Christians engage in this behavior?

I believe there are two reasons:

1. Unconsciously, when it comes to relationships we buy the lie: “If other people would shape up, then my life would work out.”

When we have a conflict with our spouse, our boss, kids, or even a conflict in a church situation, it’s much easier to cast blame and assume that theproblem is the other person. We do this in order to justify our own behavior. Rather than face our own insecurity and fear of being rejected, we put downthe other person first.

2. We have a perverse appetite for information. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts. (Proverbs 26:22)

We love gossip because we love to hear yucky stuff about other people. Go through any grocery store checkout line and you’ll see that almost all of themagazines displayed are geared toward finding out the gossip about celebrities. They tell us who’s broken up with so and so and who is living with someoneelse.

Also, many of us have gotten caught in the web of speaking against another person. I believe that this is so common even among Christians, thatit’s not a question of “if” this is happening, but a matter of “how much” we are doing it.

Until now, perhaps many of us haven’t even thought it was a big deal. But it is. There are some sins that we think are small, but God thinks are really big– and slanderous speech is one of them.

Our words have the potential to deeply injure others. Let’s be the kind of people who honor one another with our words, not tear down.

Want to know more about what it means to live like a Christian? Browse our Small Group resources page or view our Weekday Radio Archive where you can access all of our previously aired radio broadcasts.

Written By

Chip Ingram

Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge

Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.

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