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Christian Counseling - Words: The Language Of The Heart

Victorian era novelist, George Eliot (pen name of Mary Ann Evans) once said, "Watch your own speech, and notice how it is guided by your less conscious purposes." What we say reveals who we are. Even simple, everyday speech errors tell us something about what's going on in our hearts and minds.

Matthew 12:34-37 says it this way:
"'...For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of
judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."'

What a standard God holds us to--"every careless word." What He is saying is every spoken word is very important for it reveals something about our inner hearts and minds, even that which is outside of conscious awareness. Every word is a window into one's soul, the essence of the person. Scary, huh? Yet, for those who deeply want to know themselves this is a main road of travel leading to the sure destination of self-understanding.

"Every careless word" also implies that we can and need to carefully listen to every single word people say and not quickly or prematurely dismiss their words as only a "slip of the tongue." We can trust that every word reveals some part of the heart. For example, on the presidential campaign trail Senator Obama revealed to Joe the plumber that he didn't want to (yet, going to) penalize the rich, but that "spreading the wealth is good for everybody." In an unprepared moment he unwittingly allowed us to see what is in his heart--a socialist philosophy, at the least.

Insight-oriented therapists, like myself, say we need to listen with a third ear. It means we are looking beyond the spoken words to intended meanings, conscious or not, and saying what has not been said. To illustrate, a woman who says her husband is selfish can mean several things. "Selfish" may be an accurate descriptor, but one other possible understanding is, "I feel rejected because he doesn't give me the time of day." If she has a history of being neglected or abandoned in her relationships, then the third ear has picked up an accurate and important interpretation. To properly discern, first listen to the spoken words and then evaluate what underlies the words by watching nonverbal communication and searching a person's history. When you find matches and consistences in two of these areas, you can have reasonable confidence in the accuracy of your view; in three of these areas, you can be very confident.

We all need to practice listening to every actual and intended word coming from ourselves and others, especially those close to us. Doing so helps us check out our beliefs about them, assist in identifying thoughts and feelings and deepen all our relationships. All of us want to be understood and most of us value self-understanding. We fear and treasure those who have this developed ability.

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