by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery
Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions. Proverbs 18:2 NIV
Over the years, my words have gotten me into a heap of trouble. I’ve initiated and meddled in arguments I shouldn’t have, fought to be right rather than understand, and wreaked destruction in the name of self-defense.
For years, though I longed to behave differently, my mouth failed to change.
Here’s why: I fought the symptom instead of the cause.
Whenever my words run amuck, my pride’s at fault. The solution, then, is surrender—making Jesus, obedience to Him (rather than man’s opinion) and the intimacy that follows—my treasure.
Let me explain.
Proverbs 18:1-4 (NIV) says, “An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels. Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions. When wickedness comes, so does contempt, and with shame comes reproach. The words of the mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream.”
When I speak foolishly, focused on defending myself or proving my point, I’m likely acting out of fear: fear of losing face or not getting what I want or hope for. But in my desire to elevate or defend myself, I miss crucial unspoken “heart talk.”
A while back, I engaged in a heated discussion that revealed considerable miscommunication—things heard that were never said, statements taken out of context, and others extrapolated in confusing ways. Focused on the miscommunication, I attempted to unpack each one.
I remained oblivious to the insecurities and wounds underlying it all, and thereby only exacerbating the problem. Had I focused on the person’s heart more than their words, I could’ve responded with wisdom and grace.
Reading through Proverbs 18, I thought of this interchange and prayerfully evaluated my heart.
I came up with this list of reminders and steps:
- I don’t need to defend myself. When someone criticizes me, if their complaints are valid, acknowledge them and prayerfully consider ways I might change. Because living in grace means I’m in need of it, too. I’m broken, prone to sin, and nowhere near who God would have me to be, yet even now I’m accepted and deeply loved. This disarms my pride, as I humbly recognize my need for Christ, which increases my courage to grow.
- God’s opinion and my obedience to Him is more important than man’s perception of me. When I base my identity in Christ and treasure intimacy with Him more than saving face, I don’t need to defend myself or prove my point.
- When I begin to feel defensive, I must uncover the fear beneath and remind myself of who I am in Christ. He’s my defender, protector, perfect guide, and the One who holds my future in His hands.
- Don’t own whatever’s not true. Simply disregard it, reminding myself of steps one through three.
- Finally, listen for the fears and insecurities behind my “opponent’s” words and address those before attempting to resolve anything external.
Relational conflicts can be messy, confusing, and cloaked in emotion and false perceptions. Seeking grace-filled resolution means putting a guard rail on my tongue and taking time to go deep—to my and my opponent’s heart. It also involves surrendering my pride and emotions to Jesus so that He can love others through me. It’s just another way to live out grace in our lives.
About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Hometown Healing and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team love to help women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. Visit her online to find out more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event, and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE to learn of her future appearances, projects, and releases.
Do you ever feel insignificant or unseen? As if what you do or even who you are isn’t quite good enough? If so, this seven week Bible study, Becoming His Princess, is for you. Based on the remarkable life of Sarah, you will find a grace that will prove sufficient for all your failures and insufficiencies.
Join the conversation: Let’s talk about this! How easy is it for you to guard your tongue? When considering times your words have gotten you into trouble, can you see similar “root causes” as I mentioned above? How often has fear and pride lied at the root of your conflicts? Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!