Modeling Pure Speech
About the Guest
Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and Barbara Rainey address a topic that is rarely discussed in the church-gossip and slander. Why do we do this? Nancy explains that it's a heart of pride that wants to exalt ourselves and put down others. Before we speak we should ask ourselves: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is the Holy Spirit prompting me to say this?
Barbara RaineyAfter graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Cru® in 1971. With her husband Dennis, whom she married in 1972, the Rainey’s cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry committed to helping marriages and families survive and thrive in our generation. Barbara is a frequent speaker and guest on FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s award-winning nationally-syndicated daily radio broadcast. She is the author or coauthor of...more
Nancy DeMoss WolgemuthNancy has touched millions of women's lives through Revive Our Hearts (an outreach of Life Action Ministries) and the True Woman Movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for the Word and the Lord Jesus are infectious, and permeate her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—...more
Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and Barbara Rainey address a topic that is rarely discussed in the church-gossip and slander.
Modeling Pure Speech
Bob: Are you guilty of saying things about other people that simply ought not be said?—things that are unkind or untrue—guilty of slander? Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says that should not be, for a lot of reasons.
Nancy: Paul says to Titus: “Older women, you’re supposed to be an example of pure speech, not slandering, so that these younger women around you—that you’re investing in—you’re setting the pace for them; you’re leading the way; you’re passing the baton onto them. They can look at you and they can see an example of a woman whose speech is gracious, it’s kind, it’s true. They say, ‘I want to be that way. How can I know Jesus and His Word in a way that will make me like that?’”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, February 20th. Our host is Dennis Rainey; I'm Bob Lepine. How can we tame our tongues? How can we not be guilty of slander?
We’ll talk more about that with our guest today, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
Dennis: Bob, I heard some juicy gossip.
Bob: Dennis, gossip is a sin.
Dennis: But Bob, I—
Bob: Did you hear how that shut him up? [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, Bob, I want you to know this so you can pray.
Bob: Okay; alright. Now we’re okay; because it’s a prayer request, not gossip.
Dennis: That’s right.
Now, this is not—this is not a show today that is just for one gender, although we’re going to be speaking with a couple of ladies. Barbara joins us on FamilyLife Today, my wife of 45 years.
Barbara: That’s right.
Dennis: Welcome back.
Barbara: Thanks; glad to be here.
Dennis: And Nancy Wolgemuth joins us on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back to you as well.
Nancy: Thank you, Dennis; and congratulations to you all for 45 years!
Dennis: Nancy leads a ministry called Revive Our Hearts, and the True Woman movement, and has written a book called Adorned.
Bob: Oh wait, wait, wait—where’s the prayer request or the gossip?
Dennis: I’m getting ready to go there—
Bob: Okay; alright.
Dennis: —because Nancy talks about some characteristics of women and what they ought to be like today. She just comes out of Titus, Chapter 2. One of the first things that’s mentioned in the book is gossip and slander. Nancy, it’s relevant for all people; but do you think it is especially relevant for women?
Nancy: Could I say it’s particularly addressed, in Titus 2, to older women? You know, I’m an older woman. I was actually a younger woman when I started writing this book. It took so long that, in the process, I became an older woman. [Laughter] I was single when I started; I ended up married before I finished this book.
I take seriously this thing about slander. Now, Scripture talks about slander for men, for women, for every age group—using our tongues in ways that destroy, and hurt, and wound rather than heal and encourage.
But Paul specifically says, in Titus 2, here that “older women are to be reverent in behavior.” Then, the first example he gives of what that looks like / what that means is they are not to be slanderers. I pondered this passage a lot. I thought: “You know, what were the old women doing in this church that he was writing to? Were they just talking too much?”
Well, maybe—they’ve raised their children; they were in a season of life where maybe they were just letting down their guard a little bit and relaxing. The women would get together and they would chatter. It might have been under the guise of sharing prayer requests; but Paul says, “If you’re going to have the impact Christ wants you to have for the gospel, if you’re going to be the kind of woman that younger women can find as an example of how to love and follow Christ, the first thing you have to do is watch your tongue.”
Dennis: “Control it.”
I want to know what you found out about the word, “slander”; because if you’ve been thinking about it for a few years—
Nancy: I have been thinking about it a lot. It’s a little scary thing; because most of the times, when that word—the Greek word that’s translated “slanderer”—it’s the word, diabolos [διαβολο]; devil; diabolical. Almost every time when that word is used in the New Testament, it refers to the devil.
Dennis: —who is the father of lies.
Nancy: —who’s the father of lies, and he uses words to deceive. He slanders us to God—he’s the accuser of the brethren. He slanders God to us—makes us think that God is not good; God is not kind; God is not gracious. And then, when we speak words—that are untrue, that are hurtful, that wound, that destroy people—we are actually playing the part of the devil—we’re fulfilling his agenda; we’re acting as his agents.
When I realized that, I thought: “Wow! This is not a small thing!”—just one word here: “not slanderers”—but it’s a big concept.
Bob: And can we just make it clear that slander doesn’t have to come through the mouth?—it can come through the fingers on the keyboard.
Nancy: There’s a lot of it going on on the internet, and it’s so easy to do. You see something you don’t agree with—you can comment. It can happen on Facebook® / on Twitter. There’s a lot of slander that goes on, including among those of us who are Christians.
Barbara: Well, I think people think it’s safer; because they’re not doing it to someone’s face. I think men and women both say things online/on screens that they shouldn’t, because it feels more removed and more distant—and: “I wouldn’t dare say this to your face, but I might feel like repeating it to someone else.” I think it’s exploded—of course, talking, and ridicule, and all kinds of things that are unhealthy.
Nancy: I saw a really sad tweet the other day from someone that we all know—she’s the daughter of a well-known Christian leader. The leader has been slandered a lot in the Christian press recently for something that he has stood for—it is truth, but he’s been slammed for it.
His college-aged/recent college graduate daughter wrote a tweet and said, “Sometimes when people rant about other people on the internet, they forget that those people have family; and that the family members see what’s written, and it can be really hurtful.”
My heart just went out to this young woman. Her dad is a godly man, and she knows that; but still she’s reading and seeing what people are saying, who have this theological nuance difference with her dad. They’re not being careful in their words.
So, when I write things / when I say things, one of the thoughts I try to have is, “Would I say this this way / would I write this this way if the person that I’m talking about were here in the room?”
Nancy: —“or I knew that person would be reading it?”
Bob: I saw the tweet you’re talking about. I saw her brother chime in and say, “Little sister speaks truth.”
Bob: So, there’s a lot of damage that can come from slander.
Barbara, I’m just curious—Nancy talks about this being directed toward older women.
As we grow older, we’re supposed to be growing more godly.
Bob: Yes; have you found sins of the tongue, like slander and gossip, have been harder to control as you’ve gotten older; or has your growth in grace given you a check against those?
Barbara: You know, that’s a really good question. Maybe I should ask my husband. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, you know what? I was thinking about answering it for you.
Barbara: Well, because Nancy first started talking about it, I was thinking, “You know, I don’t know that it…”—again, I haven’t studied this like you have; but I think it’s a temptation for women of all ages. I know—when I was younger, and my kids were in school, and I would be talking to other mothers—that’s when I remember feeling that kind of thing; because one mother would be talking about how her child made straight “A”s and mine hadn’t. You know, there’s that competitiveness with moms and kids. That’s kind of where my brain was going.
I don’t know; what’s your answer? I’m anxious to hear what you have to say.
Dennis: I just would have to say, Bob—in answer to your question about “How has Barbara struggled with that?”—
—I just don’t recall Barbara saying unkind things about other people, or half-truths, or lies. If I share something in confidence with her, it’s kept in confidence. She’s a person of her word. She has other struggles in her life. She knows mine; I know hers. I wouldn’t say slander would be one of the battles that you [Barbara] would be fighting.
Nancy: And that’s the point of this passage—is that, as Christian women, we’re supposed to be examples of not slandering. The world slanders people, but we’re not supposed to be that way. So, what you just said about Barbara—every husband should be able to say about his Christian wife.
Dennis: Yes; she’s a trustworthy person.
Barbara: But I can identify with something you wrote in your book, and that is that you have a tendency to edit your husband. My weakness and struggle isn’t so much with what I say about other people or repeating things; my struggle is more in my marriage, because I don’t have my children to correct anymore and to help them eat right—
—“Use your napkin,” “Don’t burp at the table,”—all that kind of stuff. That’s all over. So, he gets all of my attention that used to be spread out between six children. He gets his own, plus their measure—so that’s where I struggle.
Dennis: But that’s not slander.
Barbara: I know.
Dennis: That’s called “Building up your husband.” [Laughter]
Barbara: I just had to tell Nancy that I understood. When I read that in her book, I went, “Oh yes; I’m an editor too.” Dennis would agree. [Laughter]
Bob: Nancy, why are we predisposed to want to slander and gossip? I mean, what’s the appeal in doing that?
Nancy: Well, you know, “The devil made me do it,”—it is diabolical—but really, doesn’t it come down to a heart of pride?—thinking that I want to exalt myself. I do that by putting down the other person. We’re insecure / we’re all insecure; so we want to make ourselves look better. To do that, we try to put other people down.
It has the exact opposite effect—we really destroy ourselves and our relationships when we use these biting, or sarcastic, or critical, or evil-speaking words of one another.
What power there is in words of grace—words that minister healing, words that are true, words that build up.
Nancy: Those take the control of the Holy Spirit. Your natural flesh isn’t going to say those lovely kind of words; but when the Spirit controls us, our words are going to be powerfully positive.
Dennis: Bob, I’ll tell you what the temptation is—it’s to be in the know—I want to be in the know.
Nancy: That’s pride.
Dennis: I want some knowledge. I have knowledge about this person that I pass on, because that’s powerful. That means: “I know it; you don’t,” and I share this juicy morsel, which may not be the truth or maybe a half-truth. I think we all like—we all like being the center of attention.
Bob: It can be the truth and still be gossip; right, Nancy?
Nancy: It can be if it has a negative or hurtful effect—if that’s the intent—is to harm, even if it’s truthful. The Scripture—this passage, says, “Don’t do that.”
What you just said, Dennis—if I could just have a moment of kind of mutual self-confession here—don’t you find that many times we, as Christian leaders, have that temptation, when we talk with each other, to be in the know? We heard something / we know something; we share something. We don’t get a pass on this—this is speaking to us as well. Just because we happen to hear what’s going on in the Christian world—and we, maybe, read some pieces or talked with somebody—I think there’s some care needed, whether you’re a man or a woman / Christian leadership or not—we can destroy or heal with our words.
Dennis: I totally agree with you.
Bob: So, if somebody is hearing this and they’re going: “Okay; I have some issues with my tongue. I lean into gossip; I lean into slander; I can be sharp-tongued. I posted something yesterday that I should go back and take down now,” how do you counsel somebody?
How do you, as an older woman, come alongside a younger woman and say, “Here are some things you can do to help get control over your tongue”?
Nancy: Well, I’m having to counsel myself about this every day; because I use words a lot in speaking and in writing. Scripture says in Proverbs, “Where there are many words, sin is not lacking.”
But I have to ask myself—hopefully before I say it / before I write it—“Is this true?” “Do I know that it’s true?” “Okay; it’s true. Is it kind?” “Well, is it necessary?” “Am I just saying, ‘I have to fill the space with these words’? Is the Holy Spirit prompting me to say this?” “Can I just have the humility of being quiet?—of not saying what I know?”
Dennis: And maybe asking the question, “What’s the purpose of sharing this information with this other person?”
Dennis: I mean, you couch it in a prayer: “Please pray for this person; they have this struggle.”
Nancy: And what if we set out to have—for our own selves and as we mentor and teach others—if we said:
“Look, the standard we’re shooting for is that we have zero tolerance for words that don’t meet the scriptural guidelines: ‘Whatever is pure, whatever is kind, whatever is true…’ If we say, ‘It’s not that,’ I’m not going to say it.”
And then sometimes we do say it. If we made a commitment that: “When I have spoken out of turn—I’ve said something that’s not true or that’s not kind—by God’s grace, when the Spirit convicts me about it, I’m going to go back and confess what I’ve done. I’m going to ask forgiveness.”
This happens in our marriage; I assume it happens in your marriages. There are times when you just say something quickly. You weren’t guarded, and you weren’t thinking, and you just—I can see that my words wounded my husband’s heart. Well, that happens. My husband has taught me a lot about just quick to—he did this the other day—came back and said: “I shouldn’t have said that. Please forgive me.” That’s been a great model for me, and I want to be a great model of that for him and for the women around me.
Bob: You had a younger woman come to you, awhile back. She had said things about a pastor that she was convicted, and she came and confessed that to you. How did you guys deal with it?
Nancy: Yes; and it had been a hard situation. The church—there had been some things that had happened that, from her youthful vantage point, were really harmful to her family. She’d gotten angry and she’d said some things about the church and the pastor in the process. She came to see me in my apartment, and she was so broken. God’s Spirit had been dealing with her; and she said: “I’ve been so wrong. I’m so sorry. I want to deal with this.”
I said: “Do you want to deal with it, like, right now? If I could get that pastor to come over here and speak with us right now, would you want to talk to him?” She said, “Yes; I would.” I called him and said: “Any chance you could come over? There’s a young woman who wants to talk to you.”
He dropped what he was doing—he came over; she poured out her heart. It’s a situation where she could have said: “I’m the offended one. I’m the aggrieved party”; but she humbled herself.
She said: “I never should have said these things. I’ve slandered you; I’ve slandered this church. I’m so sorry.” She was sobbing—she said, “Could you please forgive me?”
He was so gracious, and he extended forgiveness—he was pastoral with her. He responded to her humility. I watched God reconcile those hearts, right in my living room. It was a really sweet thing.
Dennis: What you’ve just illustrated is what James, Chapter 3, outlines. It talks about, in the whole chapter—by the way, if parents are looking for a good devotional tonight to read at the dinner table and just apply what we’re talking about, whether it’s just a husband and a wife, or you and the kids, or you and the grandkids—James, Chapter 3, talks about taming the tongue.
Bob: That ought to be on your regular rotation. That should be in the top 40 countdown for your family. [Laughter]
Nancy: —for all of us!
Dennis: I mean, we used to have our kids memorize—what was the verse?—“Do all things without grumbling or disputing.”
Barbara: Yes; Philippians.
But the chapter ends with this statement. Listen carefully—it’s a bit lengthy, but listen to what James advises us to do:
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast, and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above; but it is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist there will be disorder and every vile practice.
But listen to this conclusion:
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, and sincere.
And then I love the conclusion—what it says here:
And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
Slander causes division.
Dennis: Wisdom from above brings healing and peace in relationships.
Bob: Those verses you just read from James, Chapter 3, are verses that someone, who is struggling with gossip or slander, could memorize / meditate on—carry around in the flyleaf of their Bible and just pull it out and read it from time to time. Add Philippians 4:8 to that list of verses—you know, “Whatever is pure…think on these things.” First Corinthians 13 would be a good section to just meditate on.
Nancy: Ephesians 4: “Let no unwholesome talk come out your mouth, but only that which ministers grace to the hearer.”
Bob: This is not something that the Bible has just a few passages on.
Nancy: The Book of Proverbs—all the way through!
Bob: And part of the way we correct our behavior is by renewing our minds; right?
Nancy: Yes; it’s the Word of God that does that. That’s why Paul says to Titus: “Older women, you’re supposed to be an example of pure speech, not slandering, so that these younger women around you—that you’re investing in, you’re setting the pace for them, you’re leading the way, you’re passing the baton on to them—they can look at you; and they can see an example of a woman whose speech is gracious—it’s kind / it’s true. They say, ‘I want to be that way. How can I know Jesus and His Word in a way that will make me like that?’”
Bob: I’ve seen this happen. I’ve seen gatherings together, where there are younger women, who are passionate about this and that—and they’re saying: “This should be happening,” and “That should be happening,” and “So-and-so shouldn’t do this,” and “By the way, did you hear about this?” I’ve watched older women, who keep their tongue from evil and their lips from speaking guile. They just are at peace, and there’s just a calm; and they kind of let some of the air get out of the balloon.
Then, after a while, somebody will turn to them and say, “Well, what do you think?” That’s where they have an opportunity to step in and be the portrait of wisdom; right?
Nancy: And I’ve been that younger woman with an abundance of words and thoughts many times—more times than I’d like to admit—but how I thank the Lord for putting wise, gracious women, who have a control on their tongues / the control of the Holy Spirit, who’ve set an example / set a model. I’ve said, “That’s the kind of woman I want to be.” Now, I want to set the pace—now that I’m an older woman—set the pace for the younger women around me.
Bob: I feel like we need to set up a conviction hotline, where women can call right now—
Dennis: —and confess? [Laughter]
I want to ask Barbara—
Bob: —some men too / maybe too.
I want to ask Barbara: “What older woman had the most impact in your life, as you reflect back around what we’re talking about here, just being an older woman who measured her words very carefully and who modeled what Nancy’s talking about?”
Barbara: Well, this wasn’t someone that I had regular contact with, but one of my mentors was Elisabeth Elliot. She was always very wise in what she said. She was always measured in her responses.
Nancy: No unnecessary words.
Barbara: She was not the kind of woman who would just prattle on and on and on. That example I admired—of course, I admired pretty much everything she said—read everything she wrote.
Nancy: But that’s because she was careful with her words.
Barbara: She was careful with her words—she was. And there were others, too; but that’s the one that pops into my head as being a role model in many, many ways; and that was one of them.
Dennis: And I think I’ll challenge our listeners—both male and female—who has a same-sex friend, who’s a bit, maybe, older than you in the race of life / who you can spend a little time with, and maybe talk about issues like this. Ask them how they handle it; ask them how they process their own temptations to prattle on, as you described, Sweetheart.
I think every person needs a mentor. It may not be someone that you do, as Barbara said, who you do meet, face to face, with every week / every month; but it may be somebody whose writings have a great impact upon your life. At this point, I just brag on Barbara’s blog. She has a blog that she writes, called Ever Thine Home. There are tens of thousands of women who are subscribing to that blog and just hearing her talk about some of the issues that she’s dealing with, as an older woman. She’s not old, but she is an older woman. Maybe let my bride mentor you a little bit.
And then I’d also recommend Nancy’s book, Adorned. This is her heart between two covers. You’ll get a lot of what it means to be a godly woman if you pick up her latest book.
Bob: We, of course, have copies of Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s book, Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together. It’s available in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order it from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to order—1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the website—FamilyLifeToday.com—or call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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And we hope you’ll join us back tomorrow. We’re going to explore some of the specific instructions older women are to share with younger women about being lovers of husbands, and lovers of their children, and busy at home. That’s found in Titus 2, and we’ll spend some time talking about it tomorrow. I hope you can be with us.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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