This post is the first in a short series, “Ancient Wisdom for Today’s Woman.” Each post will highlight a verse from Proverbs and explore how Christian women can apply it to our lives today.
None of us would purposefully drive our car through our living room window, set our bedroom curtains on fire, or take a sledge hammer to the living room wall. (Though Kathy Bates’ character did do that last thing in the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes.”)
In fact, most of us work hard to care for and protect our homes. We install locks, and smoke detectors. We polish and clean. We replace things that get broken and paint shabby surfaces. Unfortunately, sometimes we care more for our physical homes than for the people who live in them.
Sometimes we do pick up sledge hammers. But it’s not brick and mortar house we slam. Not the house, but the household. The family who dwells within. We wreak destruction with our words and our attitudes and our absence. We tear down fragile hopes and dreams with thoughtlessness and indifference.
This is nothing new. Wise King Solomon even witnessed this widespread tragedy about 3,000 years ago:
A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands. Proverbs 14:1
How does this happen? Why would a woman – even a Christian woman – “tear down” (beat down, break down, ruin, destroy) the family she loves?
I dare say that none of us would do this on purpose or in one fell swoop. Instead, we tear down our loved ones a brick at a time in moments when our spiritual guard is down. Times when we are overwhelmed or tired or busy or anxious. In those moments when we aren’t leaning on Jesus.
Solomon calls this woman “foolish.” He also said we can recognize a fool when she opens her mouth (Proverbs 17:28), so it’s no surprise that our tool of destruction is usually our words.
Words are powerful. They can either build up or tear down (Ephesians 4:29). Destructive words discourage, deflate, and divide. Constructive words build up, encourage, and unify. (For more about words that “build up” see Words of Grace.)
Here are three ways we can purposefully use our words to build up and not tear down:
- Share God’s Word (Acts 20:32) – When we keep the Bible central in our homes, our spouse, children, grandchildren will thrive on its truth. Talk about it, read it, memorize it together. As each member of the family grows in their relationship with God, they will also grow in their relationship with each other.
- Pray for Them (Jude 20) – Whenever we regularly pray for another person, God seems to change our heart and attitude toward them. That change will in turn affect how we talk to them and treat them. We can pray for our family members in our personal time with God, but let’s also pray with them and over them. As we pray, they’ll hear our heart for them.
- Everyday Conversation (1 Thessalonians 5:11) – We tend to underestimate the impact of our day-to-day, normal interaction with our family members. Every word we say has the potential to tear down or build up. Anger, half-truths, deception, ridicule, insults, gossip, selfishness, berating, and more destroy relationships and injure the individual. But kindness, gentleness, forgiveness, humility, and compassion build relationships and encourage the individual (Colossians 3:8, Ephesians 4:25-5:7).
Let’s lay down the sledge hammer and ask God to guard our heart and our mouths. Let’s be women of wisdom who use our words to build up and encourage.
Who in your life needs a little “building up?” What is one specific way you can use your words to build them up today?