As children we wrestled with the concept of truth, relying upon the almighty promise. Anyone could say they would do something, but did they PROMISE? Did they ‘pinky swear’? Or how about: “…cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.” We would go to great lengths as children to re-enforce the truth of what we were saying with some sort of linguistic overture.
But what happens when that trust in words has been broken?
Words are tricky
Language is powerful. With it we can communicate thoughts, feelings, and intentions. We can convey knowledge, or reveal ignorance. Through language we can build up, or we can destroy. I wrote previously about the power of words in relationships (Sticks and Stones).
Sometimes, words fail us:
- You try to express how you are feeling, but it comes out wrong, perhaps hurting your spouse.
- In a moment of frustration you carelessly launch a volley of painful words at your mate.
- You construct a web of lies with words in order to manipulate the relationship or hide your sin.
When words fail us, we find ourselves in a predicament. To right a wrong, we tend to rely upon language. To heal a hurt, we typically turn to conversation. To rebuild trust, we often make promises about what we will or won’t do in the future. But if your words have resulted in pain for your spouse. How can you possibly repair the relationship?
Actions are clear
When Tammy and I began to rebuild our own relationship, we quickly ran into a quandary. During marriage 1.0 (what Tammy and I refer to as the early, selfish, skewed version of our relationship) I had made a slew of commitments to Tammy. I told her that I would always honor her. I told her that I would never leave her. I told her that our family was a priority for me. I told her that I would keep her heart safe and protect her. But I violated her trust and replaced those commitments with an internal commitment to look out for myself and no one else. My words had failed me because they no longer carried any weight with my beloved.
As we began to build marriage 2.0 (our new, God-centered relationship), I found it very difficult to convince Tammy that things would truly be different. She didn’t trust me, and I didn’t blame her. So what do you do when your words carry no weight and yet you need to reassure your mate that the path of your new life together will be different? While praying over this, the Lord brought me a very simple and profound message – “You show her that you love her. Talk is cheap, but actions speak louder than words. Best of all, actions never lie.” It was simple, and yet so profound. If Tammy couldn’t trust the things I said, she could learn to trust me by my behavior. Where words had failed me, my patient and loving actions could knit her heart and her trust back together, little by little.
Talk is cheap. Action is priceless.
You will know them by their fruits
Throughout our renewal process, Tammy would repeatedly have doubts and fears crop up. This is natural, because as I have previously written, wounds heal crooked. Each time that Tammy was plagued with doubts about the things I would say and the commitments I would repeatedly make, I pointed her toward my actions to offer reassurance.
I would gently remind her by asking probing questions:
- Am I behaving in a loving manner?
- Do you see me putting your needs and our family’s needs first?
- When I engage you, do you experience love and respect?
You see, not only are words tricky, but our emotions can get the best of us. We can get carried away with doubt, fear, and resentment from years of pain and neglect. So how can we sort it out and see what is true and what is false? The Bible says that you can identify a true heart vs a deceitful heart by looking at its ‘fruit’ (Matthew 7:16-18). So look at your mate’s actions and see if they reflect fruit from a loving heart (I Corinthians 13) and a soul devoted to becoming more Christ-like.
“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Words can fail you, but actions are clear and incapable of deceit. If you find that it is difficult to rely upon words when renewing and refreshing your marriage, turn towards the power and clarity of action. Instead of promising or swearing or sticking needles in your eye, demonstrate your love through the honor and care you bestow upon your mate. Serve your spouse daily with a selfless, authentic love. Your consistent acts of genuine love and service will resonate more clearly and effectively than any speech could ever hope to accomplish. Words come from the head, but behavior comes from the heart.