I began teaching Craig Groeschel’s Soul Detox today in our adult Sunday school. The DVD has five lessons, the first of which is called Toxic Language. It’s just an excellent study that I’d like to share with you today.

The premise of the teaching starts with three verses from Proverbs:

“The tongue has the power of life and death.” Proverbs 18:21

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18

“The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:4

Who out there hasn’t had their soul crushed by someone’s harsh or cutting words? Craig teaches that we really need to pay attention to the words we use and guard our hearts against those who trash talk us. Here are some of the points I made to the class this morning:

  • We usually are actually nicer to people we don’t know than the ones we’re closest to! The sad fact is we tend to use toxic language with those who are closest to us – our spouse, our children, our parents. I really can’t pinpoint why other than to think two things. First, we tend to be more comfortable sharing our “real” thoughts with those who know us best. Instead of holding back like we do in polite society, we let it rip at home! Second, I think we treat those closest to us worse, because our expectations of them are higher and they are in a position where they can cause us emotional pain. We have a pretty low expectation level of acquaintances and even friends, and we place appropriate boundaries in those relationships so they can’t hurt us. But our intimates are a different story. We project all sorts of expectations on them and when they hurt us, we lash out. So the lesson is we have to be especially aware of how we talk to those closest to us and not fall into the trap of using toxic language with them.
  • Toxic language can be a habit or reaction in our lives – one that we don’t even know we’re doing! I grew up in an environment where everyone cursed. I thought swearing was a normal part of conversation and used it routinely for decades. It wasn’t until I came back to church and got around churchy people that I decided to clean up my language, which I still have to work on. Sometimes the language we use is just what we grew up with. But if that language is toxic we need to break that habit. Here’s how you go about that. First, you identify what language you are using that you want to change. Figure out when you use it – is it just habitual or does it come out as a reaction to certain things, like when you are defensive or mad? Next, decide what you would rather say or do instead of what you’re currently saying. For example, when I get frustrated I tend to swear. So, I want that to change and the first step I want to take is just to keep my mouth shut. So here’s what I do. Every time I get frustrated and am about to swear, I replace that reaction/habit with the action of keeping my mouth shut. The more I do that the more my action will become the habit and I will then not be so toxic in my response to frustration. Easier said than done, but an exercise worth trying.
  • Sometimes we buy into the toxic language – we actually believe the crap others say about us! What we need to do, according to Craig, is test what people say about us against what God says about us! What you will find is what people say about you isn’t at all true, and what we need to do is guard our hearts against believing those lies and instead hang on to what God says about us instead. A couple weeks ago I wrote a blog called Mid-Week Encouragement. If you wonder what God thinks of you go back and re-read that entry and rejoice that God loves you especially!
  • This last one hit me right between the eyes. Craig said that we need to be sure to bless people by telling them the positive things we think about them and not withhold those thoughts from them. When I heard this I realized that I withhold those comments from my wife. I think all sorts of nice stuff about her, but I just don’t seem to say what I’m thinking. Character flaw on my part. But, an excellent reminder from Craig that we actually are withholding God’s blessings when we don’t tell the person the encouraging thoughts the Holy Spirit is cultivating in us. I need A LOT of work on this one, but am committed to trying to be better starting today!

If you’re interested, Soul Detox comes in a book as well as the DVD Sunday School series. If you use toxic language or are the recipient of toxic language you may want to buy a copy and give it a read.