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"The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil" (Prov 15:28).

The Advertisement might read: "Can be more deadly than snakebite. Can be more terrifying than taking a bone from a junkyard dog. Can do more damage than a wrecking ball smashing into a building."

What is it?

The "retort."

Described in the dictionary, a Retort means:
- To make a reply, especially a quick, caustic, or witty one. To present a counter argument. To return like for like; to retaliate.

Whenever people need to speak something that could represent correction, those on the receiving end often put up quick walls, don't fully listen, and snip back with quick retorts.

Those little retorts can be the beginning of a great battle - a battle that we didn't really want to fight. They can be like a match to a gas can. They often come spontaneously and without premeditation.

Retorts can be sharper or more cutting than a razor. They often come in defensive posture. And they too often slip out of our mouth in response to something that was said which was not only truthful, but also meant as helpful advice - not as an attack.

Our spouse might try to point out something that we said or did that was inappropriate or that could have been handled in another way, and we simply don't like what they say. "They don't understand us," we think. "They don't know why we said or did what we did - even if it wasn't appropriate."

We try to justify our words or actions in our mind and put up a defense protecting our position - knowing deep down inside that we blew it and they are right. Rather than be quiet and listen, rather than reflect and begin to open our heart to what they said, we let slip out "the retort."

Blessing and Cursing Don't Mix
Those retorts often represent cutting words that begin to hurt and provoke. When they do, the battle has started. The bullets and bombs fly. Tears, hurtful remarks, and for some, worse things manifest.

I'm sure at this point the devil is excited for the way his plot turned out. Everyone is hurt, the pain is deep, and scars will be left. God helps us see this truth so we can be aware of it and learn to get His help in resisting the temptation to retort.

Let's read in James 3:5-10 (TLB):
So also the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A great forest can be set on fire by one tiny spark. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness, and poisons every part of the body. And the tongue is set on fire by hell itself and can turn our whole lives into a blazing flame of destruction and disaster.

Men have trained (or can train) every kind of animal or bird that lives and every kind of reptile and fish, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is always ready to pour out its deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our heavenly Father, and sometimes it breaks out into curses against men who are made like God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Dear brothers, surely this is not right!
Defensiveness leads to "retorts" escaping our mouths. In our own self we can't seem to find the strength to hold them back. That is what we read: "but no human being can tame the tongue."

We can't tame it. Retorts slip out. They start a fire, a battle or a war. Only by yielding to the Holy Spirit within us can we learn to keep our tongue under control.

God wants to help us with things we need help with in our life. The primary way He will speak to and correct us is through His Word. Proverbs 3:11-12 says, "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor detest His correction; For whom the LORD loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights."

Bombs Away!
We read, pray, and meditate on His Word and He speaks to our heart about things. But, He also uses people who love us to speak into our lives. Those are often the ones we lob the retorts at. When this happens we cancel out the ability to hear the truth that could have helped us.

I know it's not easy for anyone to listen when people are trying to speak into our lives, especially when their comments are of a corrective nature. But, as our opening scripture says, "The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil."

When we understand how God purposes to use those close to us in order to help us, we can shut our mouth - with the help of the Holy Spirit - and really listen to what is being said.

We can then fashion an appropriate (non-defensive) reply or retort while at the same time expressing our appreciating for their help and input. They may not have said it in the best way possible, but we can still learn from it and be better off for it.

We just need to shut off those destructive retorts!

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All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Author Biography

Tim Burt
Web site: Todays Fresh Manna
Timothy Burt is a pastor, author, and writer. He is best known as the author of Fresh Manna, a daily devotional and online Bible study.

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