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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Defensiveness, Retorts, and the Tongue of the Wise

Fresh Manna
by Pastor Tim Burt


The advertisement copy might read: Can be more deadly than snakebite. Can be more terrifying than feeding an alligator. Can do more damage than a wrecking ball. What is it? The Retort.  Retort is defined in the dictionary this way: to make a reply, especially a quick, sarcastic, scathing one, to present a counter argument, to verbally retaliate.

At the age of 25 I was a young Christian married manand immature married man.  Like any marriage, there were times where I would correct Renee on something and she would correct me on something. What is it about a man's ego that it can be so easily bruised?  As I said, I was immature and would often get defensive and lob a retort back.  Those little retorts sparked battles that we didn't really want to have. Retorts come spontaneously without premeditation. They are too often sharp and cutting. From some people, they can be as deadly as a match to a gas can. And they too often slip out of our mouth in response to something that was said to us that was truthful and not meant to be an attack. Oh these evil mindless viperous retorts…

Our spouse might try to point out something that we said or did that was inappropriate or that could have been handled in another wayand we spout the retort. We think, They don't understand. They don't know why we said or did what we did—even if it wasn't appropriate. The retort has been launched and now the battle begins. We try to justify our words or actions and shore up a defense protecting our position knowing deep down inside they are right and we blew it. Rather than be quiet and listen—rather than reflect and begin to open our heart to what they said, we let that cursed retort slip out.

Those retorts hurt and provoke those trying to help us. When retorts escape our mouth, the battle begins, the bullets and bombs fly, the cutting and hurtful remarks hit the target, and the tears are shed. I'm sure at this point the devil is excited for the way his plot turned out.
God helps us see this truth so we can be aware of it and learn to get His help in resisting the temptation to retort. James 3:5 (TLB) says, "So also the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A great forest can be set on fire by one tiny spark. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness, and poisons every part of the body. And the tongue is set on fire by hell itself and can turn our whole lives into a blazing flame of destruction and disaster. Men have trained, or can train, every kind of animal or bird that lives and every kind of reptile and fish, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is always ready to pour out its deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our heavenly Father, and sometimes it breaks out into curses against men who are made like God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Dear brothers, surely this is not right!"

If you ever get defensive (and your spouse or friend will surely affirm if you do,) then you probably launch retorts from time to time. Defensiveness and retorts go hand-in-hand. In our own self we can't seem to find the strength to hold them back. That is what the scriptures in James confirm—we are incapable without God's help, to control our tongue! Retorts happen and hurt. Only by yielding to the Holy Spirit within us can we learn to keep our tongue under control.

God wants to help us with things we need help with in our life. The primary way He will speak to and correct us is through His Word. Proverbs 3:11-12 (TLB)  "... do not resent it when God chastens and corrects you, for his punishment is proof of his love. Just as a father punishes a son he delights in to make him better, so the Lord corrects you." We read, pray, and meditate on His Word and He speaks to our heart about things. But, He also uses people who love us to speak into our lives. Those are often the ones we lob the retorts at. When they do, we cancel out the ability to hear the truth that could have helped us.

Defensiveness is a nullifier. It nullifies the opportunity to learn and grow. Proverbs 12:1 (NKJV) says, "Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, But he who hates correction is stupid." Developing godly character means we have to change these kinds of negative attributes in our life.

Correction is seldom easy to receive from anyone but, as Proverbs 15:28 (NKJV) says, The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil. God has called us as Christians, to learn to use our tongue wisely! That means studying how to listen and answer with grace! When we understand God uses those close to us to help us and we, with the help of the Holy Spirit learn to restrain our lips and listen to what is being said, then we can study to answer not defensively, but with an appreciation for the help we can get from others. Even if someone corrects you in a less-than-desirable way, we can still learn from it and be better off for it. If we will control being defensive and shut down those destructive retorts!

Proverbs 12:18 (NIV) "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing."

In His Love,
Pastor Tim Burt

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