No More Backbiting
Susanne Scheppmann

"Make a clean break with all cutting, backbiting, profane talk. Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you." Ephesians 4:31-32 (MSG)

We heard a screech from my three year-old granddaughter. Bawling like a newborn calf quickly followed. My daughter-in-law and I rushed to Emily and found a purplish-red oval on her back. Ouch! It seemed her younger sister bit her on her back as they struggled for possession of a toy.

This childish episode caused me to imagine God gazing down on our behavior, shaking His holy head and saying, "Stop talking badly about one another. You're hurting her. Stop backbiting over such silly things."

Unfortunately, backbiting comes easily for us, doesn't it? We become put out over a co-worker, a neighbor, or even a sister in Christ, and begin to spew negative words. Our tongues wag and we injure people—sometimes the ones we love the most.

Remember the childhood rhyme, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me"? Ha! That is a false statement. Hurtful words can damage and leave bite-marks for a lifetime.

So why do we do this? We backbite because our words are the most difficult thing for us to control. The Bible states in James 3:2, "Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way" (NLT). We need to pray that the Holy Spirit will nudge us each time we are ready to fling a few disparaging words.

In addition, if we are the recipient of a bite on the back, we must learn to forgive quickly. Our key verse advises us to, "Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God in Christ forgave you." This isn't as hard as it may seem. Realize that things are said that may be misspoken and not meant to hurt as much as they do. Understand that if you hold bitterness in your heart about the unkind words, the bitterness affects you, not the other person.

I witnessed this forgiveness in action with my granddaughters. The younger one, the backbiter, looked defiant, then confused, then sad. She said, "Sworry." They hugged.

Later in the day Emily, the granddaughter who had been bitten, said, "It hurt real bad, but now it's not." Yes, there are two lessons to be learned from our key verse and these two toddlers: don't backbite—and forgive.

Dear Holy Spirit, I ask You to nudge me the next time I begin to backbite. Give me the sense and control to shut my mouth before anything hurtful hurls itself off my tongue. Also, help me to forgive those who hurt me with their words. Mold me into Your image of grace and forgiveness. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Embraced by the Father: Finding Grace in the Names of God by Susanne Scheppmann

30 Days to Taming Your Tongue and accompanying Workbook

Birds in My Mustard Tree: How to Grow Your Faith by Susanne Scheppmann

Visit Susanne’s blog

Application Steps:
Read James 3:1-12. Ponder what James compares the tongue to in these verses. Consider if your tongue is a "restless evil, full of deadly poison." Determine today not to backbite anyone—no matter how aggravating. Decide to use your tongue for the encouragement of others and to praise our God.

Reflections:
In what situations do I most like to use my tongue in a negative manner?

Why do I backbite? Is it jealousy, bitterness, or a power struggle?

Power Verses:
Proverbs 21:23, "Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble." (NLT)

1 Peter 3:10, "For, 'Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.'" (NIV)

James 3:5, "Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark." (NIV)

© 2010 by Susanne Scheppmann. All rights reserved.

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9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too struggle with this, I think as human beings sometimes it is just easier to backbite than try and forgive. I know forgiving is right, it is just not the first thing I think about when offended.
This devotion will make me think the next time I want to backbite.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When God is speaking to our spirit man promting us to change... i felt that bit of resentment, like this word is meant for somebody else. But i know it was meant for me, i was recently hurt by a fellow christian sister that i have known for years, who always seems to be bringing me bad news...even when i dont want to hear. As much as i dont like the backbiting i realised that i am also doing backbiting when i dont forgive her and pray for her, instead i get upset about the offence and get on my high horse....

The Lord knows that i am work in progress and he is so patient in teaching me even when stubborness stands in the way, he gently nudges me to face facts.

Thank you Jesus.

Naomi

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I read the part about controlling the tongue first and then I being able to control other areas it struck me, although I will never be perfect I can do better. I need to get this area under control so then I can work on these "other" areas of my life. You can be a very good witness when you're not loving and forgiving.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

awesome devotion it is very hard not to talk ill words of my ex and how he handles our kids but I do my best not to say them to him or behind his back will every one help in prayer with this.

Blogger Emily Kane said...

Recently I have confronted some lifelong issues with my parents - this has left me dissapointed, bitter, angry and feeling very alone. But at the same time God has used this situation to free me from some lifelong struggles I have has with myself - I am able to see things clearer now and not blame myself for things I never had any control over. However I have had a hard time letting go of the hurt completely - hurtful words still creep up n conversations with my parents and I battle negative thoughts about them daily. I am praying that God will give me continued strength to forgive my parents which also means stopping the hurtful words and thoughts toward them. I am only making things worse by constantly reminding them of the hurt they caused me. Forgiving them does not mean things didn't happen but it does mean letting go of my anger and hurt so that God can work FULLY in my life. I pledge today that it ends with me, that God will show me how to interact with them n a way that will protect my spirit and show his love at the same time. My biggest motivation is the positive effect this will have on my husband and children. Thank you for a message I certainly needed to hear this morning!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Years ago I realized that I come from a long-line of backbiters-perhaps it is a genetic defect within all of us. When I think of all of the hurt feelings and loss of having close and loving relationships my heart is so sad. My actions have doomed me to a life of loneliness.

Wow, is this ever a 1,2,3 punch for me. I am working on lesson 8-Love Forgives in a Bible study by Cynthia Heald-"Becoming a Woman Who Loves." The first Scripture is Isaiah 53, where the imagery of Jesus' suffering is most vivid. Reading the verses in The Message, I could hear the taunts of the crowds, the soldiers, the shame form Peter, and yet, He didn't respond in kind, He forgave.
Two,I,like Emily, am dealing with the effects of emotional abuse and verbal abuse from family. My MD recently recommended I read, "The Emotionally Abused Woman", by Beverly Engel,She recommended the book because she feels I'm in an emotionally abusive relationship with my husband. My account with that mirrors what Emily is experiencing right now. I marvel at how hurtful words have shaped who I am today.
Thirdly, I am using this new knowledge to realize, because I was deeply hurt by the people I loved, I have had a hard time trusting and believing God:1, So completely forgives me, 2, Loves me beyond measure, and 3, only wants me to experience the best.
Please pray with me for strength and clarity as I work through this struggle, and pray for my husband. He really needs the peace and love, and salvation that can only come from God.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I to am one who struggles daily with thoughts of past and daily hurts, but through prayer the Holy Spirit keeps reminding me that I to have hurt and I was forgiven so in turn I must forgive. If we ask, the Lord will walk through this process with us and will open our hearts and give us strength. I have found that forgiveness has released me from the anger and bitterness I carried around for so many years. Now I find I have Joy in my Heart. I still slide back into those dark thoughts, but I now know where to go to release them.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do I backbite? Is it jealousy, bitterness, or a power struggle?

You forgot one. Because it's fun. Spiteful fun. It's awful, but it's true. We backbite because we enjoy it. It makes us feel more powerful.

I pray for God to help me overcome this. I'm grateful for the times I'm able to bite my lip and hold back.

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