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

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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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Falling in Love All Over Again

Successful Marriage

I like the message about falling in love with the same person. That’s exactly what it takes to grow a marriage that lasts a lifetime . . . whether you’re 20, 40, 60, 80, or somewhere in between!

Click on the picture above if you want more information about the 4 Habits online summit. And of course, you’re always welcome to message me through the Contact page of this site. Blessings to you!

4 Habits to Transform Your Marriage

Next month the 4 Habits online marriage seminar begins! Forty different sessions over six weeks (but you have access to the videos a lot longer so you can revisit them or watch them at your convenience and at your own pace), more than twenty speakers: definitely worth much more than the price to gain access to the material. Click on the picture below to find more information about the online marriage summit.

Happy Couple

 

Charisma Media Interview

 

In June, I was invited to Charisma Media for a Facebook Live interview about my book, WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage. Chris Johnson was really good at conducting the interview, and I had a great time. It was fun, and gave me a chance to talk about marriage, the Bible, and a few things I really care about.

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Marital Mistakes

Mistake #1: It’s not going to rain, I’ll ride my motorcycle to the store.

Mistake #2: After the rain subsided, I made it to my bike not too wet. Then I rode home, and drove right back into the storm, arriving totally soaked.

Mistake #3: Agreeing to my wife staying an extra week with our son, whose wife just had a baby. Had she come home with me, we would have both gone to the store, and we would have been in the car, and I wouldn’t have gotten drenched.

Mistake #4: Therefore, it’s my wife’s fault I got soaked.

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The Power of Forgiveness

It’s crucial that you understand the power of forgiveness. When you forgive, you release yourself and the other person from the pain and wrongs of your joint past. But forgiveness doesn’t happen quickly. According to Christian ethicist Lewis Smedes, it happens slowly, with a little understanding, and sometimes with some confusion, because it has to sort out the anger and the injustice. When forgiveness has finished its work, however, both the forgiver and the offender have been renewed, transformed, and set free from the pain of the past.

Sometimes, you have to forgive the person you’re still in relationship with because there’s been unfaithfulness, a betrayal, neglect, or abuse. This is hard, but with God’s help, and sometimes the help of a good pastor, counselor, or friend, you can be successful at putting the past behind you and moving forward in a fresh start.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean there will be no scars. You carry the consequences of pain long after the hurting stops and the forgiveness is complete. The Christian singing group Point of Grace has a song that talks about the impact of the ugliness, pain, and shame of the past, which are often followed by scars that remain for a lifetime. Heal the Wound, written by Clint Lagerberg and Nicole Nordeman, focuses on the metaphor that even after an injury has healed, there’s often a scar that lasts a lifetime. But instead of seeing the scar as a negative, they reframe it as a reminder of how gracious the Lord was in bringing you through the struggle.

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Who’s More Important?

Before getting married, it’s healthy and right to be loyal to one’s parents, siblings, and friends. But once you get married, the primary loyalty has to shift to the new spouse.

It’s not that you have to cut off relationship with your family and friends No, you still want them and need them in your life. But the spouse must become the new priority, and has to feel more important than the in-laws and others. To the extent you’re willing and able to let go of prior loyalties, you can form new ones. Likewise, to the extent that you can’t or won’t change priorities, your marriage will suffer.

While Genesis 2:24 states that it is the parents you must leave in order to form a new unity, there are others, as well. These might include a boyfriend, girlfriend, or a previous lover. In fact, there may be a number of people and situations included in what you let go of: friends, abuse, wealth, lifestyle, job, fame, high school sports, or any number of things in one’s past.

Your Past Can Ruin Today

One couple lost a son in a terrible accident. Unable to let go of that pain and loss, not knowing how to heal, and unwilling to forgive, the woman drove her husband to divorce. She allowed the past to ruin their marriage by allowing it to remain in the present. She kept the pain alive.

But it’s not just the negative that has to be left behind. Sometimes you have to let go of some positives: the good old days, a happy first marriage, that perfect job, a previous home and neighborhood, wealth or fame, or even a dream or ambition. An athlete whose playing days are over is often headed for emotional and relational disaster. A Soldier whose career comes to an end, sometimes can’t adjust to being a civilian and finding a new identity.

Someone who loses a leg or an arm in an accident at work might have a tough time accepting the new reality and letting go of the previous physical ability. Retirees sometimes struggle with letting go of their previous life, identity, and sense of importance. Empty-nesters also face a difficult struggle when the kids are gone. These transitions are tough.

Sue Augustine writes, “All of us can think of something we’d like to be set free from. For some, it’s hurtful memories, past regrets, or bitter resentment. For others it’s sorrowful remorse, frightful insecurities, or deep-rooted grudges. Imagine what it would be like to be free . . . . There is hope for you or someone you know who struggles with an imperfect or painful past.”

Her book When Your Past Is Hurting Your Present is arranged in three sections: Relinquish Your Past, Renew Your Present, and Rebuild Your Future. This is good guidance for couples who are still fighting or struggling with letting go of the past.

Bottom Line: make sure you live each day knowing that your spouse is the most important person in the world.

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Like Father, Like Son

Families have a powerful influence on you throughout your life. Parents, siblings, and extended family shape you, teach you, and help establish your values and worldview. A lot of people look like, sound like, and think like their parents, sometimes even the ways they laugh, sing, or walk. I read about some cities that have an annual father-son and mother-daughter look-alike contest, and the entries are fascinating. It takes just a few minutes on a computer to find some hilarious parent-child look-alikes.

Personal interests, skills, and education often come from parents. It’s pretty common for a child to grow up and go into the same line of work as mother or father. People tend to follow their parents’ preferences in politics and religion, too. It makes sense, because parents set the tone in the home their children grow up in, and what the kids experience there, usually becomes the norm.

There’s a short film about an interview with a Qantas Airline pilot whose son became a flier for the same airline. Steve Gist and his son, Taylor, eventually were assigned to fly together, with the dad as the lead pilot, and the son as the co-pilot. It’s a great story, demonstrating some of the ways kids learn skills, knowledge, interests, and even careers from their parents.

I know of preachers’ kids who become ministers, school teachers’ kids who go into education, athletes’ kids who play ball. The same happens with hobbies. In June 2011, two men (father and son) both scored their first-ever 300-point game at the same bowling alley during the same week.

When I was in high school, I played Lieutenant Joe Cable in the musical South Pacific. One of the songs was titled “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.” According to lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, we pick up hate and prejudice from our families.

We also learn how to behave in relationships from our families of origin, and that’s what brings us to this principle. You see, most of us don’t have very good role models when it comes to marriage. My wife and I both came from parents who had a pretty bad marriage, so when we got married, we didn’t know what to do. We loved each other, but didn’t know how to treat each other in positive ways, day after day.

When talking about letting one’s past influence the present, we often say the person is carrying some baggage. What we mean is, there’s been some pain, abuse, or failure in the past, and the person hasn’t finished dealing with it, letting go of it, healing from it, or forgiving the people involved. Whatever is in “the baggage” still has a negative impact on present-day relationships and attitudes.

Not all of the baggage we carry through life is painful or negative, though. In fact, sometimes it’s the good stuff in our past that gets in the way of building a good marriage. People who come from a good family often have just as much difficulty forming a new marriage, because of the influence of the parents.

The second Biblical Principle of Marriage is found in Genesis 2:24: This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh. I call this verse the Old Testament equivalent of Philippians 3:13-14, But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. The point of these scriptures is that in order to fully live in the present, you have to let go of the past.

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Treasure #1: Unity

Proverbs 24:3-4 tells us that a house is built by wisdom, and it is established by understanding; by knowledge the rooms are filled with every precious and beautiful treasure.

Treasure? When I read these verses one of the first questions that comes to mind is, “What are those treasures?” So I searched the Bible, studied the writings of psychologists, and looked at my own marriage experience, and I concluded that there are four treasures. The first one is Unity.

Jesus said whenever two come together in unity, he promises to be there with them. He followed that with another guarantee: whenever two are in agreement and ask for something, he will do it for them.

Do you catch the significance of this? Unity invites the presence of God and ignites the power of God. That’s what makes unity a priceless commodity in your home. It’s the single most-important component of an effective marriage.

The first treasure you need, then, to decorate your home is unity, and the first three Biblical Principles of Marriage will show you how to do that. When a couple puts these concepts into action in their home, they are able to create the dynamics that will sustain them and provide a deep awareness of the behaviors that contribute toward unity. They’ll learn to avoid the words and behaviors that destroy unity.

When you are committed to building and maintaining unity in your marriage, you will experience the active presence of God and the awesome power of God. You’ll start to decorate your home with this beautiful, priceless jewel, paving the way for more treasures to follow.

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