Kicking Verbal Knee-Jerk Reactions to the Curb

Sharon JaynesLiving Free, Living Fully, Power of Words 21 Comments

If you’re like me, you’ve tried to get control of your words, and then a knee-jerk reaction makes words pop out of your mouth to make you look like a big-jerk reactor. The following story gives an example of the power of verbal reflexes and how to tame them.

One day I was driving home from the beach in July Fourth holiday traffic. It was Southern muggy hot, and cars were a throng of metal on wheels. Everyone was going faster than the posted speed limit and I was trying to keep up. I was also young and distracted. Ok, here’s the truth: I had just broken up with my boyfriend and crying my eyes out.

At one point, I felt my front right tire slip off the asphalt and onto the gravel shoulder of the road. In a flood of panic, I heard the voice of my driver’s ed teacher from four years earlier, “If you run off the road, do not, and I repeat, do not jerk your car back on the road. Slow down to a stop and then gently guide the car back onto the road.”

My mind knew the rule. I was even repeating, “Do not jerk the car, do not jerk the car.” Then I promptly jerked the car. I pulled the steering wheel to the left, jerked the car onto the road, and lost control. As if in slow motion, the car began a descent down an embankment. The weight of the car became unbalanced and began to roll down the embankment. When the car landed upside down at the bottom of the ravine, I was sitting on the ceiling of the passenger side. Amazingly, I crawled out of the car unharmed.

That’s how powerful reflexes are. We can know what to do, but then suddenly do the opposite. When it comes to taming the tongue or changing any bad habitual behavior, we may have some very powerful reflexes to overcome.

The Bible tells us that when we come to Christ, we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). However, no one pushes the delete button to erase the old habit patterns that have been formed over time. The Bible calls them old flesh patterns. They are like ruts in the brain that have been formed by years and years of thinking the same thoughts and repeating the same actions.

The only way to replace old ruts in the mind is to form new ruts with the truth. That comes with practice, training, and reprogramming our minds with the truth. The Bible tells us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2). In the process, we will still make mistakes…old reflexes.

Shortly after Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding of Cana, He traveled to Capernaum with His mother, brothers, and disciples. It was almost time for the Jewish Passover celebration, so Jesus went up to Jerusalem to worship. As He approached the temple, Jesus heard the bleating of sheep, smelled the stench of the cattle, and saw the haggling and exchanging of coins. The temple had become a free-for-all rather than a house of prayer.

“So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves, he said, ‘Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!’” (John 2:15-16).

Yes, Jesus cleaned out the temple that day, but it wasn’t long before the moneychangers began to creep back in with their wares. Three years later, during his last week of life on earth, Jesus came upon the unholy mess again. (See Matthew 21:12-13)

How did the messy mayhem of the temple happen the second time? I don’t think it happened all at once. After Jesus cleared the temple initially, I suspect it stayed that way for a time. But one day, a moneychanger set up his table. Then another brought in a few birds, followed by a couple of sheep, and then here came a cow.

The next thing you know, the temple wasn’t any different than it was before Jesus cleared it out and cleaned it up three years earlier. In three years, it had reverted back to an unholy mess.

And God whispers in my ear: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own” (1 Corinthians 6:19 NIV).

Sometimes I am that messy temple. I bet you are too.

Swept-clean sinful behavior, ungodly thoughts, jump-off-the-cliff emotions, and caustic words are itching to creep back in at all times. It is up to me (and to you) to keep the temple clean.

Perhaps you’ve had a Holy Spirit moment at some point in your life—a moment that caused you to make a major change in the words you speak. But for the moment to maintain momentum, we need to be constantly aware of our tendency to revert…to go back to the way we were. And remember, you are never on your own. God has given you the power of the Holy Spirit to help you every step of the way.

Jesus, thank You for making me a new creation. Now, help my mind catch up to my new identity. Purify my lips. Keep watch over the door of my mouth. Show me when old habit patterns start to creep back in and give me the wisdom to sweep them out. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

What is one old habit that you cleaned out of your heart closet, that has crept back in and needs to be swept our again? 

The re-released and updated version of my best-selling book and Bible study guide, The Power of a Woman’s Words: How the Words You Speak Shape the Lives of Others are hot off the press. They include new content, including a chapter on the power of a woman’s words to her adult children…it’s complicated! Perfect for your women’s ministry’s next Bible study!

Words are one of the most powerful forces in the universe, and God has entrusted them to you! They echo in hearts and minds long after they are spoken. How will we use this gift? Your words can change the course of someone’s day…even someone’s life. Learn how to

  • exchange careless words that hurt for intentional words that help others succeed
  • recognize words that tear down confidence and replace them with words that build others up
  • overcome the negativity that pushes people away and become a well of positivity that draws others in
  • tame your tongue by practicing practical principles that help you think before you speak
  • stop being disappointed in your lack of control by taking hold of the power of the Holy Spirit
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Comments 21

  1. God’s timing is always overwhelming. Just yesterday I let the words of frustration and stress fly unabated fom my mouth. His love and grace are so evident in this timing! He is always there with what we need. At the very moment we need Him.

  2. That is the weird thing about words. If we say I will not do the wrong move in controlling the car, we will do that. If I say I will control the car the way I was taught, we will be more likely to do that. Self talk. So vitally important, so hard to do consistently….

  3. Thank you! I truly needed to be reminded how I can take back my control over my actions. I also have those jerk movements that can rattle my soul!

  4. I pray daily for God’s help for me to hold my tongue when I may blurt out. But I have a hard time forgiving myself when I do. Please pray with me.

    1. I am not easy with the tongue so it makes a strength but I need Holy Seto help me tame the thoughts and emotions that overwhelm me till they turn into dreams. I have to keep cleaning up the old mess that keeps creeping back to my soul.

  5. I am on a teo week stress leave, day three! I am spending this time asking God to show me what He is teaching me in this time of pain and suffering (spiritual, emotional and physical). Day one He told me I am loved and valued by Him. Day two He told me the battle I am in is His, not mine to fight. Todsy, in your teaching I know I am not to conform but to be transformed by the renewing of mind. I treasure these teachings by God’s faithful servants, thst help to put things into perspective, especially when I’m ready to listen! Lol
    The story of the accident really spoke to me.
    Thank you Sharon. God bless you for your faithfulness to Him. I am so happy He brought me to your teachings. You are now a part of my journey. ❤

    1. Thank you for sharing too. This is me in my life right now. Your not alone. Whatever the battle is, it hurts. Thank you for sharing Sharon, timely encouragement as always.

  6. You need to use bad words with some people because they need to be out of your life. A lot of people are scum. She worries too much about what people think

    1. Post

      Hmmm. I don’t think you ever need to use bad words. I’m not worried about what other people thinks but what God Word says. Ephesians 4:29

  7. Romans 7:15 reminds me that no matter how hard I try, I alone will fail – I need to surrender to God and the Holy Spirit everyday. It isn’t a one and done thing – it is a daily conscious activity that keeps me aligned with His will…and keeps the impulsive words and actions at bay. Great post – thank you!!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this insight with us! It speaks to me to continue to ask the Lord to put a guard on my lips…that I speak nothing but love.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this insight with us! It speaks to me to continue to ask the Lord to put a guard on my lips…that I speak nothing but love.

  9. Thank you Sharon. Your devotionals are always just what I need, when I need it. I agree with your comments about “bad words”. We, as Christian’s, need to seek God’s response to others without being crude.
    Psalm 19:14 is in my daily prayers:” Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight.”…

  10. Thank you for sharing the revelations you got from the Lord. It has given me new insights and realizations which I can carry and apply through my day to day tasks. More blessings for you and through you!

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