Why We Wound Others with Our Words

By Chip Ingram

Has anyone ever said something about you that was untrue, misinformed, negative or judgmental? Has anyone ever said something about you behind your back and you found out about it later? Few things in this world have the power to ruin a relationship like critical, accusing, defaming, hostile, inaccurate or even slanderous words.

I can think of countless good relationships that were destroyed, families that don’t talk any more, and churches that have split because of slanderous speech. Slander happens anytime the result of our communication about someone (truthfully or not) brings him or her low in the eyes of another.

But here’s the scariest part. As Christians, we’re not exempt from participating in this behavior, and most of the time, we don’t even know we’re doing it! We do this so unconsciously in our conversations that we don’t even see it as a big deal. We can also slander others in the form of “well meant” prayer requests or under the guise of getting counsel on a difficult situation. In an attempt to get other people on our side, we’ll share all the “dirty laundry” of the other person in order to show him/her in a negative light and make ourselves look better.

The Apostle James responds to this very issue of slander and criticism that was also prevalent in the early church.  He writes, “Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. 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)

In this passage, James is addressing the whole church and then commands each of us to stop “tearing one another down” by “speaking against” each other. Instead, we must follow the “law” which is to love your neighbor. James knew how destructive this type of speech could be because it is rooted in judgment of others, not love.

So why do we as sincere Christians get caught in the web of speaking against each other?

  1. We believe the lie: “If other people would shape up, my life would work out.” We slander because it’s easier to cast blame and avoid responsibility by justifying our behavior than looking at our part and addressing what we can change. We are also horribly insecure and afraid of rejection, so we put other people down first.
  2. We have a perverse appetite for information. We live in a culture where gossip sells because we love to hear icky stuff about other people. Proverbs 26:22 can attest to this: “Gossip is so tasty, how we love to swallow it.”

So how can we stop ourselves from speaking against others? First, we need to realize that this is destructive and hurtful. We need to see how serious this is so that we can take action for the glory of God and for the protection of others. Secondly, we need to have the courage to admit when we’ve sinned or to seek repentance from anyone whose name we’ve slandered.

This week, we’re starting the series, Five Lies That Ruin Relationships. In it, we will identify five common lies we believe that hurt our relationships, and we’ll ask and answer the question: “Do wrong beliefs produce wrong behavior?” We’ll also uncover the source of quarreling, how our words wound, how not to make decisions, and why better things don’t always make things better. My prayer is that we would fully grasp God’s desire for us have right relationships, and how he longs for intimacy, peace, love and joy to reign in our hearts.

Keep Pressin’ Ahead,

Chip Ingram, Teaching Pastor
Living on the Edge

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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