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 budding Christian and newly married man—and immature one at that! Like any marriage, there were times where I would correct Renee on something and there were times when 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 because of it, often got defensive and would be guilty of lobbing back a retort. 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 as a defensive response to something that was said to us that was truthful, yet 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 way—and then comes our 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 sometimes provoke those who are only 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. The tears are shed. I’m sure at this point the devil is excited for the way his plot has turned out.
God doesn’t want us to fail and destroy people we love and respect. He wants us to grow up and become aware of our weaknesses so we can learn to receive 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 inflict pain. 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 His Word corrects our heart. Initially we can feel condemned but God is never trying to condemn us. Only to correct and help us. He already sent Jesus to wash us clean. You’ll find that the more you let God’s word correct you, the more willing you are to let others who love you, speak into you life. As that happens, you begin to listen and stop lobbing retorts!
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 qualities 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 desires for us to learn to use our tongue wisely! That means studying how to listen and answer with grace! When we understand God uses those closest 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 begin to be students of how to respond appropriately instead of defensively.
I can thankfully say that I have learned to control my tongue (for the most part) and listen to Renee and those close to me if they have something to say. I’ve learned that it will probably help me catch something I was missing and become a better person with each small change—beginning with the end of retorts from my mouth!
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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Published by Pastor Tim Burt
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