Use less words

by Stephanie Winslow, Christian Examiner Contributor |

American cultural teaches that "more is better." There is an additional belief that "something is better than nothing." Something of course feels better than nothing because nothing feels empty and void. Nothing stirs up a sense of lack and a lack of control. Nothing can't be gripped on to or dug in to. But could it be that in the nothing, "more" and "better" are found?

What? Yes, I know, it feels like a crazy train to follow, but this is a consistent area in my life God continues to refine. When it comes to my words, what I say, how I defend myself, the guiding & instructing of my kids, the expression of disappointments and even my tendency to be passive aggressive, all of it comes down to too many words. Words are an area where more is not always better. And sometimes nothing is better than something.

Just this week I was praying over my family. The start of summer with late nights, more ice cream and an irregular schedule has caused emotional havoc to arrive in our home. High emotions and meltdowns have been frequent visitors. In my frustration and longing for a quick fix, I run my mouth like a freight train without its breaks. Once I start, there is no going back until someone cries or a door gets slammed. I am certain you cannot relate.

This week I decided to start fresh. I prayed, "God, help me to instruct, guide and counsel my girls in a way they can receive it. Help me to coach them through their emotions, instead of being exasperated by them." As I closed my journal, God's gentle voice instructed me, "use less words."

This phrase radiated through my heart and spirit. "Use less words." It seems so simple, yet requires a great deal more patience and listening than I have practiced. Use less words is also a reflection of God's own character, and how he coaches and leads His children. I wonder, if He spoke and instructed me in the same manner that I instruct my children, would I grow tired of His voice? Certainly, I would.

Proverbs 10:19 says, "When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is prudent."

I can be a passive aggressive person. (I have only been willing to admit this, mind you, for about 2 days.) Using too many words is a capstone practice of passive aggression. Instead of saying what I mean and what I want or need, I code my meaning with too many words that require a decoder, and then get frustrated when I am not understood. Passive aggressiveness in my life has only ended in confusion, hurt feelings and broken relationships. Nothing good has come out of it.  Seriously. Anyone relate to this?

When I speak in codes, it's like a set up for the other person. I am setting them up to disappoint me. I am setting them up to fail in my eyes or to not meet my needs because they just "don't understand me." I set them up to prove my past emotions and beliefs are right, "no one understands, so why do I bother being in relationships with people." It is tricky, and it's manipulative.

So, whether I am communicating with my husband, my kids, or anyone else for that matter, using fewer and direct words leaves less room for me to hurt others or be hurt myself. Using less words sets the stage for change to happen. Using less words will not feed into lies I have believed from the past but will circumvent them with truth.

My challenge to you this week is to participate in a word fast. Sit quietly before God and ask Him to help you understand if you are using too many words. What would it look like for you to use fewer, more clear and more direct words when communicating with those closest to you?

Ask God to equip you with patience and listening ears to speak less, defend less, and encourage more.

— Stephanie Winslow, author of Ascent to Hope: The Rugged Climb from Fear to Faith and business coach @ Blind Spot Consultants, writes to arm others with support and encourage Christian families struggling with addiction to let go of fear and find peace in personal relationships with Christ. Mrs. Winslow holds a MA degree in Higher Education from Geneva College, Beaver Falls, PA. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, OH, with a degree in Spanish. She is certified as a Faith and Health Ambassador through the Faith and Health Connection. Stephanie resides in St. Louis, MO with her husband and two daughters.