For the first time in 6 weeks I was grateful to have a broken ankle. It gave my husband and I the perfect excuse to bow out of the, “Learn-to-trust- your–spouse-by –bungee- jumping,” exercise offered at the marriage event we were attending.
We took a nap.
The food was fabulous and the king-sized bed comfy and romantic. The thoughtfully packaged chocolates on the pillow made the travel worthwhile! But bliss was short lived. After dinner the conference discussion turned to, “How do you use words? Are you an encourager or a critical mate?”
Being raised in a family that perfected the art of razor-sharp tongue lashing, I came by the skill naturally. Some of my female family members are so adept at verbally emasculating a man that they could perform circumcisions. Unfortunately, I inherited the talent.
Being a wounded woman I effectively used words as an assault weapon. I assumed quick witted comments could fend off and protect me from further injury. It’s an “I’ll get you, before you get me,” tactic. The method is intimidatingly effective—and nauseating.
I view my critical tongue as my greatest flaw. I’ve worked hard to change.
When it came time to discuss whether I’m still critical, I hoped Steve would say I was doing better. But I could tell by his body language that I wasn’t healed. He reluctantly nodded, yes.
Immediately, the dreaded self-flagellation began. Once again the familiar little voice in my head that can’t wait to chant, “Laura, you will never overcome this. You are going to be a nitpicking nag the rest of your life. No matter how hard you try, or what method you use, you are a failure. Your husband would be better off married to someone else. You call yourself a Christian, what a joke.”
I started to emotionally sink and I wanted to give up. That was my normal thought pattern. Any victory I had over the years seemed to dissolve. My childhood induced self-hatred was back, like a monster lurking in the closet waiting for an opportunity to ambush my mind.
But then something different occurred. I choose to capture those thoughts instead of allowing them to run rampant. My mind started to shift and I began thinking about new ways to improve. These fresh insights emerged:
Often the things that my husband views as criticism I perceive as merely being helpful. This is rooted in the differences in our upbringing. I had to take into account that Steve and I were raised very differently. His stay-at-home mom didn’t raise her voice or become aggressive. I was raised in a home where it was normal on both sides of the family (Italian and Irish) to shout and speak brusquely. It’s important for a wife to realize that part of our problem might be what we asses as normal communication, our spouse may perceive as criticism.
Retrain the Brain
I recognized that before words come out of my mouth they first float through my brain. If I could tackle them there, before blurting them out—I could find resolution. This was no easy task for someone who could talk, (I mean BIG words) before she had any desire to walk. I had to ask God to help me learn to retrain my brain. The key is to think before speaking—what a concept! Now, I work hard to think before sending a verbal missile from the launching pad.
WHY, WHY, WHY?
A crucial step toward healing a mouthy mouth is to ponder—Why? Have you ever wondered why you say the things you do? “What do I get out of this? What is my motive? Is it working?” Part of my progress included evaluating the why. I realized my big mouth was not taking me where I wanted to go. Although it might feel good in the moment, was I winning the battle but losing the war? The next time you are tempted to rant, think—Is it necessary to say that? Will it help to resolve the issue? Or do I merely want to attack?
It was crucial for me to remember the times when I have tamed my tongue. Those moments, that Steve knew nothing about, when something critical was about to spew out of my mouth and I asked the Holy Spirit to help me stop. I’m so busy beating myself up over my verbal failures that I forget the things I’ve done right.
Although I have not fully mastered my tongue I am much better
I can hear women brewing, “Laura, you want me to cower in a corner and become a wimp who never speaks her mind. I’m not going to be a doormat.”
But that’s inaccurate. What I’m saying is the contrary.
I’m encouraging women to become stronger. Let God teach you how to tame your tongue and effectively communicate. Be in command of the words that leave your lips, instead of letting emotions dictate the lyrics. Weighing words carefully, can prevent future regret and shame.
That’s victory, Sister. And emancipation from the tyranny of the tongue.
Copyright © 2016 Laura Petherbridge. All rights reserved.
Laura Petherbridge is an international author and speaker who serves couples and single adults with topics on stepfamilies, relationships, divorce prevention, and divorce recovery. She is the author of When “I Do” Becomes “I Don’t”—Practical Steps for Healing During Separation and Divorce, The Smart Stepmom, 101 Tips for the Smart Stepmom and Quiet Moments for the Stepmom Soul. Her website is www.TheSmartStepmom.com