I haven’t reached back into our archives to find a post worth re-posting in a while. So with our post Wednesday about Anger, I thought the following on Trigger Words would be a good follow-up.
This was first published on June 21, 2011
Mark Twain said the difference between the right word and the almost right word is “the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
I suppose the reverse of this could be said as well – using the wrong words when you know it’s the wrong time to use them can be as destructive as a lightning bolt. I know. I witnessed first hand the effects of my words. I call them trigger words!
Case in point:
We were driving down the road, and we got to talking about some issues weighing heavily on me causing me to feel sad. In fact, I was confessing to Tom how I felt like crying. He made a suggestion he thought would help, but instead of seeing his honest attempt to help me, I reacted. I completely shut him down, and silence ensued.
I hate moments like these. As soon as the words left my mouth the temperature in the car became icy cold. I shivered and struggled, but certainly didn’t repent. I dug my heels in wanting to stay in this place for a while. Why? I honestly don’t know. It wasn’t comfortable – it was miserable! But I stayed in this mood until I awoke the next morning. Or should I say the Lord woke me and began prodding my conscience.
At 5:15a I was up and dealing with my heart. By 7a I had made Tom his coffee, taken it to our room and apologized for the pain and distance my words had caused. He received my words this time for they were the “right words.”
You’ve heard it said, Them’s Fightin Words!
Yet we are oftentimes quick to draw them out of our holster when needed. We point and shoot with the expertise of a gunslinger.
What is the point?
Who wins? No one does – not in a marriage. As partners for life we’re on the same team. Shooting off fightin’ words only kills the life of our relationship. So why do we do it? Because it’s easier to let ’em fly, than it is to restrain ourselves from grabbing the gun in the first place. It takes great restraint to say “no” to the sudden impulse of striking back.
It is helpful to remember what Christ has done for us. He used great restraint allowing the Roman government to not only cast a guilty verdict on his guiltless life, but He allowed them to take it even farther – He let them crucify Him! He had the power to call down lightning from Heaven and put a rightful end to this unrighteous death sentence. But He didn’t. Why? He was compelled by love. Love for His Father and love for us.
Considering this Truth is what helped me walk into our room and surrender my sinful heart not only to Tom, but to Christ. These are the two men who are most devoted to me and allow me to make huge messes with my fightin words, but welcome me back time and time again. It was Christ’s love that compelled me to repent, and Tom’s love that accepted my repentance.
This is kindness. This is mercy. The trigger words of grace.
How have you used trigger words in your marriage? Are they fightin’ words or are they the words of grace?
“When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” – Proverbs 10:9
Sadly, this happens all to often. I try to catch myself before I speak, but the words pop out before I can bite my tongue. My 3 second burst used to cause a chill in our relationship for 3 days. At least now my wife will forgive me almost instantly. (Amazing). But I still cannot control “the tongue.” Any suggestions on how to stop the words before they spew forth? As a husband I used to just remain quiet, because it prevented a lot of arguments. I don’t want to do that anymore. I love having a verbal relationship with my wife, but I hate it when I hurt her.
Thank you for being honest about your struggle. You are not alone. This is why James talks so much about the danger of the tongue. We have a couple of resources to recommend that we have used when counseling others struggling in this area. The first is War Of Words by Paul Tripp. He devotes an entire book, not just a chapter, to this problem. We think you’ll find a lot of wisdom in it. The second is an article titled Speaking Redemptively also by Paul Tripp. Take some time and prayerfully consider what he has to say. We hope this will lead you on the right path to lasting change.
Tom and Debi