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Why Talking Back Does Not Work
My mom taught me not to talk smack to her or dire consequences would follow. I would get punished big time with a whack where the sun don't shine, and lose supper or a privilege. These days, I am dismayed to see that talking back has become the norm. Kids talk back to their parents. People brawl in the street because one person cut off another person in traffic. Reality TV seems to mostly be people fighting for their rights by telling each other off.
The reasons people mouth off varies. These days it does not take much to spark talking back.
- People feel their rights have been violated - someone cut in front of them in line, took their parking spot
- People are hurt and offended and cover up their emotional pain by blustering back talk
- They are venting their anger
- They are jealous of another person and want to cut them down or put them in their place
- They feel they have been treated unfairly and talk back to try to obtain justice
Talking back creates several illusions. First, we feel that we are defending ourselves against a verbal attack. We think that we are straightening out someone who is wrong and forcing them to see our viewpoint. We may also feel that we are putting someone "in their place" or "down a peg or two.” We may set out to deflate what we see as pride and arrogance in the other person.
Why talking back does not work
We often justify talking back in our minds. We feel compelled to correct someone that we feel is wrong or unfair. We feel put up down and lash out with hurtful words. Much as we try, though, our talking back won't do any good and will probably do a lot of harm.
Instead of straightening the person out, it is more likely that people will shut down, refuse to listen, or walk away. The target will probably get defensive and be thinking more about how to defend themselves instead of listening to us. Our targets may become so angry that they lash out verbally or physically. We usually talk back when we are angry, so we are likely to say things that are hurtful. We damage our relationships and may put our jobs or positions in jeopardy.
We lose credibility when we mouth off. People are more likely to dismiss what we say. They may shut down completely and refuse to listen to us. We hurt other people when we talk back. The in-your-face talking back can be threatening and fill people with fear.
What we can do
We are called as Christians to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentile and patient. We are supposed to put up with people with whom we have a grievance and forgive them (Colossians 3:12-14). Our words should not defile or corrupt (Matthew 15:11, Ephesians 4:12) our conversation but be healthy – seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6). Gracious words are like a honeycomb that is sweet to the soul and healthy for the body (Proverbs 16-24).
Sometimes, we need to turn the other cheek and let a situation go. It is not our job to fix other people or force them to see our side – we should leave that up to God. We Christians should humbly speak in the name of Jesus with a thankful heart (Colossians 3:17), not scream at our kids or other people like banshees. Our words should only be used to build others up, not tear them down.
Some people may think that those who do not fight back are wimps. In actuality, it takes tremendous strength and character to hold back. Letting words rush out without restraint is foolish but silence or carefully-considered, gentle words are wise. We are in more control of the situation because our emotions are not running amuck.
Walking away can actually save our lives. Some talking back results in physical fights, injury and even death. Jesus instructs us that if someone hits us on one cheek to turn the other cheek to them. He said that if someone asks for your cloak, give it to him without a fight (Matthew 5:38-40). In His time, the Romans ruled with a brutal iron fist. Mouthing off could get you beat up or killed.
Humility vs Pride
We are often motivated to talk back by outraged pride. This pride will lead us down a dark path is we let it to rage and all kinds of sin. God hates pride and its destructive power. "A haughty look" is number one on his "things I hate" list (Proverbs 6:15-17). He also detests its fruits such as brawling, fighting, and filthy conversation.
Instead, we should be humble. Verbal bullets bounce off instead of upsetting us because we do not care what people think of us.
Letting go of our desire for vengeance
Another dark force behind talking back is the desire for revenge. God has said that we should not seek revenge. Instead, we should rely on God to be our avenger. If we continue to behave with integrity, the people who slander us will be put to shame (1 Peter 3:14-16). If we bite and devour each other, we may consume each other (Galatians 5:13-15).
As Christians, we need to realize that the words we speak can be like a spark that starts a raging fire (James 3:6). The more a fire burns, the more destructive it will be. Recognizing this, we should take time to think about how we should respond, even if it means giving up an opportunity to setting the record straight. If we can keep calm, we can hear what we need to hear and try to understand the other person’s side. There will be times we do need to speak up and correct something, but we need to do so with love.
God has a blessing for people who are peacemakers (1Peter 3:9-11). He wants us to live in harmony with all people. Our words should be encouraging and helpful at all times. We need to put aside our need to be right and correct the world. Ultimately we cannot control what other people think or do. If we resist our carnal need to mouth off, we can live peacefully with all people with a lot less conflict.
Reference: The Holy Bible, New International Version