Convinced Our Words Can Change

We so often believe that if we could only say the right thing, we could change others’ hearts,  minds, or attitudes. How arrogant we are!

Did not Jesus walk the earth? Did he not speak the words of truth to everyone? If, then, his direct words of love and truth did not always affect a change, why are we so convinced that our words can do more?

This is true for us whether we are sharing the gospel with a non-believer or trying to convince a loved-one of our position, regardless of how “right” we believe we are, or what truth we are attempting to communicate.

Today we are challenged with this question when engaged in a discussion with a loved one:

Why am I trying to convince them? What is my motivation here?

We typically deceive ourselves and say it is for their good, when it is often (if not always) born of our selfish desire for them to conform to our view. Regardless of the source of truth of our view, we all naturally (sinful though it may be) want everyone else to fall in line.

Outside of family, we get to choose our friends, finding and keeping those with whom we seldom disagree. Those with whom tend to go along with our program.

But family doesn’t work that way. We didn’t choose one another, and so there is no inherent tendency, need, or desire to go along with our program; because, we find, they each all have their own programs. And they are all way too busy trying to convince us to conform to their views to ever consider switching sides.

Could they?  Absolutely! But not by our power or our persuasion. The truth speaks for itself, and only those who seek the truth will find it, no matter how loud or vicious the delivery. The Truth is a very quiet and subtle thing, though it may crush you like a thousand bricks, you can also dodge it effectively without a second thought.

So, we must consider this before we engage in any discussion. We must approach the discussion (which is not really a discussion or argument, but just an effort at persuasion) with love. If our purpose in persuasion is just to be right, or to convince the other that they are wrong, then we will be both ineffective and destructive!

Instead, if we are speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), we try not to persuade nor take offense at the other’s inability to hear because “it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matt.10:20)

And when others speak to us in ways that seem hurtful or offensive, we must desperately see through the fog of apparent attack or disrespect, and see the words only symptoms of a greater and deeper pain than what is happening in the moment. As Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, author of Love and Respect, says, “Sometimes the issue is not the issue.”  In other words, what’s being said in the moment – or the way it is being said – is representative of what the other is feeling as the result of other issues, not necessarily the current one.  And we so often choose those closest to us – whom we think can handle our unloving, disrespectful, hurtful, selfish, childish, and sinful words and actions – to receive all the pent-up hostility, hurt, anger, and despair we suppress in every other area of our lives.

So when the arrows fly, we must put up our shields. Sure, some of us may still strike us, but only incidentally. If you’ve ever seen an epic war scene, such as that in Lord of the Rings, Troy, 300, etc., you’d notice that the archers fire from the back of the battle lines and aim to the sky. Their targets are not specific, though their arrows do fall and wreak havoc, though they are powerful and effective, yet they are without specific objects of wrath.

So don’t take everything so personally. Don’t think so highly of yourself that you must believe that every attack or foul word or unkind action is directed specifically at you.  Could it be that you’re the only one there?  Where else could the arrows fall?

We must remove our selfish motives entirely so that God can speak through us. We must choose to love first, so that the Lord may affect the change in others we desire. But more importantly, we must be mindful that it is not our job to convince them. Our job is to love them.

Remember that our truest opportunities of persuasion will never be with words.