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Down with Put Downs – A Joke or a Jab?

Gentle SpeechKey Bible Verse: Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:4

Bonus Reading: Proverbs 16:24;18:21b;26:19-19

One verbal maneuver inflicts intentional pain, then hides behind a phrase such as “Can’t you take a joke?”

It’s the coward’s approach. It’s saying, I have an issue with my spouse, but I’m too chicken to bring it up honestly where I might face disapproval or anger. So I’ll come up with a joke, often in the company of other people, designed to hit at the heart of some tender area between us.

Not long ago I was commenting on the fact that when our children were little they didn’t pull all the pots and pans out of the kitchen cupboards and play with them like so many toddlers do. I was wondering why that might be, and John responded that maybe it was because they’d never seen the pots and pans.

Translation: I wish you’d do more of that home-cooked meal thing. But it was easy to hide behind, “Oh no, I was just kidding.”

One decisive husband we know loses no opportunity to jokingly tease his wife about being unable to decide how much salt to put on her salad or what dress she’s going to wear. Sadly, now their sons are also doing it.

It would be better for that couple to have a discussion in which they say, “I wish you could make decisions better” or “Can it be okay that I have trouble making decisions and you don’t?”

—Nancy Ortberg in Marriage Partnership

My Response: How have I teased others in a hurtful way? How could I be more aware?

Thought to Apply: Words are loaded pistols.—Jean Paul Sartre (French philosopher)

Adapted from Marriage Partnership (Spring/06)

Prayer for the Week: Teach me, Lord, what it means to have a Christ-like tongue. Check my tendency to tear others down; prod me to build them up.


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