Altar Call –
Healing the hidden
wound caused by verbal abuse
Words have enormous power. Words can
kill. Words can be vicious. Words can pierce the heart like a sword. But words
can also be gracious. Words can heal. Words can fill the heart with joy. Words
can help a broken person get up and go again. Words have remarkable power!
That’s why the biblical writer James
warns his readers of the desperate need to control the tongue. You may recall
James saying that out of the same mouth can come praise or cursing. And I think
we all agree with James’ conclusion: “My brother and sisters, this should not
Not long ago Grace Ketterman wrote a
helpful book titled Verbal Abuse: Healing
the Hidden Wound. Ketterman shattered the current myth that verbal abuse
“isn’t so bad.” She helped us see that verbal abuse is bad, so bad that it
devastates millions of people. Her insights can help wounded people find hope
Other authors offer advice about how to
deal with words – their own and those spoken by others. This is a common human
need. All of us have been brought to our knees by our own misspoken words or
the hurtful words others have directed toward us. And since none of us is
perfect, we are all guilty of making serious mistakes with our tongue.
In the Bible James calls the unruly
tongue an uncontrollable fire that is able to corrupt the whole body. The fire
of the tongue can separate us from one another and from God. This divisiveness
soon gives way to anger and hatred. Wrongly used, words can destroy people,
reputations and relationships.
Is there a remedy for this problem?
James says no human being has the strength to tame the tongue. But he says
there is a solution. We must, James says, turn to God for only God can tame the
tongue. And that can happen only when we
admit our helplessness and surrender control of our mind and heart to almighty
When the Spirit of God is in control, we
receive inward guidance about when to be silent and when to speak. God in
Christ gives us the power to resist speaking cruelly and to offer words of
kindness and peace. He helps us refuse to wound others with abusive words.
Though we may never become perfect in
speaking, we can improve. With God’s help we can learn to refrain from using
hurtful words. We can become skilled in planting seeds of peace with our words.
We can make it our heart’s desire for words of praise, and not words of
cursing, to come from our mouth.
can make these words of King David the Psalmist our own: “May the words of my
mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock
and my Redeemer.” + + +