Family Words: Hurtful or Life-Giving?

Family Words: Hurtful or Life-Giving?

We continue the series entitled The Power of Words that helps us to see how the words we use have power to either give light or to cloud in darkness. When we choose our words, we must remember their power.

With last week’s focus on bullying in schools, workplaces, etc., we now turn to the power our words have within families. At the extreme of hurtful words in the home, we might look to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, who produced a graphic to define domestic violence. As you can see, much of what is shown uses words to convey its violence.

On the opposite end, consider times that you have observed family members lifting one another up, showing concern and compassion and respect and love. Households that embody this kind of positive and grace-filled environment are those that – to my reading – live more fully into the Bible’s core message of love.

Colossians 3:8-9, 12-13, 15b
8But now set aside these things, such as anger, rage, malice, slander, and obscene language. 9Don’t lie to each other. Take off the old human nature with its practices…

12Therefore, as God’s choice, holy and loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13Be tolerant with each other and, if someone has a complaint against anyone, forgive each other. As the Lord forgave you, so also forgive each other.

15bAnd be thankful people.

James 1:19
19Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to grow angry.

Consider these questions:

  1. Think about your family of origin. How would you define those family dynamics? Would you say the experiences with your family of origin were more hurtful or more life-giving? Why?
  2. Re-read the scriptures above from Colossians and James. If every family were to live in this way, what would that look like? Would families be any different? Would the world be any different?
  3. Linking back to last week’s focus on schools and workplaces, apply these same scriptures to those places. Would there be any difference?

Post-sermon follow-up on Jan 16

The audio/video of Sunday worship are not available as of this edit. When available, both will be available through this page (will open in a new tab).

I am grateful for Ron’s message from this past Sunday while I was home sick.

With the sustaining popularity of the wizarding world of Harry Potter, I thought of several interactions that took place in the original series of books that illustrated some of the harmful words that are sometimes said in family systems.

from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – Chapter 4
[When Harry first finds out he’s a wizard]

‘You knew,’ said Harry. ‘You knew I’m a … a wizard?’

‘Knew!’ shrieked Aunt Petunia suddenly. ‘Knew! Of course we knew! How could you not be, my dratted sister being what she was? Oh, she got a letter just like that and disappeared off to that … that school – and came home every holiday with her pockets full of frog-spawn, turning tea-cups into rats. I was the only one who saw her for what she was … a freak! But for my mother and father, oh no, it was Lily this and Lily that, they were proud of having a witch in the family!’

She stopped to draw a deep breath and then went ranting on. It seemed like she had been wanting to say all this for years.

‘Then she met that Potter at school and they left and got married and had you, and of course I knew you’d be just the same, just as strange, just as … as … abnormal … and then, if you please, she went and got herself blown up and we got landed with you!’

from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Chapter 2
[Aunt Marge, his Uncle’s sister, is telling the entire family that they weren’t to blame for Harry being different (i.e. a Wizard)]

“It’s one of the basic rules of breeding,” she said. “You see it all the time with dogs. If there’s something wrong with the b—-, there’ll be something wrong with the pup –”

Within family systems, our words can easily do harm. But simply NOT saying these things isn’t enough. Our words can give bright and full life! In conversations with our loved ones, consider these kinds of messages:

  • I love you.
  • Thank you.
  • Silence (see again James 1:19 above)
  • I am sorry.
  • I forgive you.

Nurturing words can be like life-giving water to a plant.

Consider these questions

  1. What are/were the family dynamics in either your current family or family of origin? This could include conversation about who are/were the “favorites,” positive or negative habits, common phrases heard, and where you see/saw yourself in the family system.
  2. What are words or phrases or situations from the family system you described that made you feel like the wilted plant in the image above? How often does/did this happen? How does/did it affect your spiritual and emotional state?
  3. What are words or phrases or situations that made you feel like the nurtured and growing plant in the image above? How often does/did this happen? How does/did it affect your spiritual and emotional state?