Life & Death: the Power of the Tongue

Proverbs 18:21 says life and death are in the power of the tongue.

When I came across Deborah Tannen’s book, You Just Don’t Understand, it looked good, so I bought it, took it home, and placed it on my nightstand. That night I picked it up and started reading, and reading, and reading. The more I read, the more I laughed out loud. The subtitle—what it’s really all about—is Men and Women in Conversation.

“What are you laughing about?” my wife wondered.

“I’m laughing cause she’s talking about you and me.”

“What?”

Every night I read a few more pages, still laughing. I’m sure Dr. Tannen didn’t mean for her book to be taken as a comedy. She wrote it as a straight-forward description of the way men and women communicate and fail to communicate, based on the way they think and their goals and purposes in the relationship. But when you see yourself and your spouse on every page, it makes you wonder, How did she know that’s what we do?

How Did She Know What We Do?

I think I learned more about communication with my wife from Tannen’s writing than from any other source. It was easy to see my wife’s foibles and laugh about them. Aha! See? That’s what you do! But then to read about what I do was a real eye-opener. I had to own up to my own patterns and behaviors.

What I learned was that Linda and I are pretty normal in how we communicate. In many ways, we fall into the stereotypes of male and female. But the way Dr. Tannen tells the stories is so funny. I called it my evening devotions. I had to read more.

One of the principles she discusses is the 3-fold asymmetry between the way men and women think and communicate.

  • Men talk to Report; women talk to Rapport.
  • When there’s a problem, men move immediately into Fix-it mode; women move into Affirmation mode.
  • Men speak to establish Hierarchy; women speak to establish Community.

Of course, these are generalities. There are men and women at both ends of each spectrum. All too often, however, husband and wife reach a stalemate because of their differences. Not understanding their communication styles and their subconscious purposes, they become frustrated or angry with each other, and that’s when they say things that hurt the other.

Proverbs 18:21 tells us that life and death are in the power of the tongue. What it’s saying is we can choose the easy, angry words and slice each other to shreds, destroying each other and the marriage in the process. Or, we can carefully choose words that affirm, heal, and build each other up. When we do that, we have a fantastic opportunity to create a marriage that’ll last a lifetime.

You can read more about this in chapter 9 of my book, WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage

Couple 3

Writing Update: October 2019

In February, I published WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage, and I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about it. The Lord is using it to help couples improve their marriage. Last month, I spoke at a ministry training conference, and in attendance were quite a few pastors and volunteer ministers who work with couples in their churches. The session went really well, and there’s even more interest in using WisdomBuilt in church classes, small groups, and couples retreats.

Since then, I completed a book about my ministry experience as an Army chaplain in Iraq. I’m really excited to announce that Dr. Richard Blackaby agreed to write the foreword for the book. Plus, I have endorsements from chaplains, pastors, Christian authors, and several denominational representatives. It’s titled Safest Place in Iraq, and is at the publisher now. They tell me it’ll be available as an ebook by early 2020, and in print by next summer.

It’s a collection of stories or testimonies about how the Lord moved in people’s lives at Camp Echo, where I served in 2007. Tell you what . . . the Lord did some fantastic things among us, and it’s exciting to be able to share these stories: answered prayer, healing, and people coming to faith in Christ.

Interestingly, in August I submitted the manuscript to the North Georgia Christian Writers Conference writing contest, and won a First Place Peach Award in the Bible Study & Nonfiction  Book category. I also entered it in the Florida Writers Association’s Royal Palm Literary Award writing competition, where it won a First Place Gold Award. Several Christian colleges and seminaries have already expressed interest in using it in their classrooms.

In the meantime, I’m teaching one class on campus at Southeastern University as an adjunct professor this fall. I volunteered to lead a 6-week Creative Writing course for a community-based senior citizen program here in Lakeland. I’ve been asked to mentor a missionary who is completing a Doctor of Ministry degree here. And, I continue to write devotional articles for CBN online, and freelance for a few other magazines from time to time.

So I manage to stay busy — maybe too busy!  🙂 But I’m having fun, and am thrilled to be able to speak into people’s lives, whether in person or through my writing.

Feel free to share this with your friends or post it on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. I’d love to get an email from you or note on the Contact Page letting me know how you’re doing.

Blessings to you,
Paul

Yada, Yada, Yada

The April 24, 1997 episode of the Seinfeld Show was titled the Yada, Yada. Neither Jerry Seinfeld nor the show’s writers coined the phrase “yada, yada.” It was already in use. But after being included on the show, the expression skyrocketed in popularity, and is still used by a lot of people.

There’s some debate about the origin of the phrase. Some say it’s from the English expression yatter, while others say it comes from the Norwegian jada, which is pronounced the same and means the same as yada. Other sources say it comes from Yiddish or Hebrew. In any case, it usually means the same as blah, blah, blah, or et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Instead of reciting the boring details of a story, you say yada, yada, yada instead.

When you watch the Yada, Yada episode, however, it’s quite obvious from the way the characters tell their stories that there’s a sexual connotation and an intentional double meaning going on. Apparently, there is some evidence that yada is, indeed, a euphemism for sex. If so, when the Seinfeld cast says yada, yada, yada in those stories, what they’re really saying is sex, sex, sex. Watch it on YouTube and see if it seems that way to you.

Because people are sometimes shy about discussing sex, we often use euphemisms when talking about it. Some of those expressions are making love, going all the way, doing it, hanky-panky, and hitting a home run. My sister and her husband use the phrase twice around the park when referring sex. My wife and I use a different term.

Our teen-aged son never wanted to talk when we wanted to; he always waited ‘til late at night. When we were way past ready to go to bed . . . that’s when he was just coming alive and wanted to talk. One night he asked, “Hey guys. Wha’d you do on your honeymoon?” I have no idea what brought that question to his mind, or what he expected us to say.

There’s a lot of things we did on our honeymoon, but the one that came to mind was, “Well, Son. We played backgammon. Someone gave us a backgammon game as a wedding gift, and we took it with us. We stopped at a store and bought some instructions, and learned to play the game while on our honeymoon.”

“Oh. Okay.” Apparently, that satisfied his curiosity for the time being.

Two weeks later, we were in our bedroom with the door closed, but still fully clothed, playing backgammon on the bed, when there was a knock on the bedroom door. Same son wanted to talk.

“Dad, can we talk about something?”

“Sure, Son. Come on in.”

When he opened the door and saw us on the bed, his jaw dropped, eyes opened wide.  “Oh my gosh! You really do play backgammon!”

“What did you think I meant?”

“Uh . . . I thought you made it up ’cause you didn’t want to talk about what you really did on your honeymoon!”

“Oh! Well, we really did play backgammon.”

“Oh. My. Gosh.”

Ever since that conversation, “backgammon” has been a euphemism for sex in our family. “So that’s what you did on your honeymoon, heh heh.”

Yada = Knowing

When Genesis 4:1 says Adam was intimate with his wife Eve, the word translated as intimate is the Hebrew word yada. The Hebrew Bible, called the Tanach, from the Jewish Publication Society translates this verse, “Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain.” The word knew has a footnote that says, Heb. yada, often in a sexual sense. Following the Jewish understanding of yada in this context, many English translations of Genesis 4:1 keep the idea to know. The word means to “know intimately, to know completely, to be familiar.” No wonder one of its additional meanings is to know sexually.

Other translations render the verse as follows. These are all appropriate ways to translate Genesis 4:1, where it says in Hebrew, Adam yada’d his wife.

  • Adam and Eve had a son.
  • The man knew his wife.
  • Adam had sexual intercourse with his wife.
  • Adam slept with his wife.
  • Adam had relations with his wife.
  • Adam made love to his wife.

One of John Gottman’s Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is what he calls Love Maps. Couples with a strong, resilient marriage not only know each other, they know a lot about each other. “From knowledge springs not only love but the fortitude to weather marital storms. Couples who have detailed love maps of each other’s world are far better equipped to cope with stressful events and conflict.”

I met Dr. Gottman when he spoke at a college in Orlando a few years ago. During a private conversation about love maps, he said it’s not an accident that the word know is used for sexual intimacy in Genesis 4:1. Knowing each other is crucial to maintaining a satisfying love life.

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