O Be Careful Little Lips

Mable C. Dunbar, Ph.D., L.P.C.

She sat in front of me, a beautiful, blue-eye brunette. She said that she was being verbally abused by her husband of ten years, who was a successful psychiatrist. He called her names, and told her that he was so stupid she did not have enough sense to form an opinion about anything. For many years she took the verbal abuse because she thought she deserved it, after all she had only finished high school and he was a doctor. But friends told her that she was married to an abuser and should take steps to protect herself. She did not believe them until she found out that her husband and pastor were plotting to have her admitted to a mental institution because she was “emotionally disturbed.” You see, she was not able to figure out how to provide meals for herself, her six year old daughter, and husband with $20.00 a week! This is a true story. She was one of my clients.

According to Grace Ketterman verbal abuse:

  1. Rejects an individual’s value as a person
  2. Isolates the victim from social activities and friendships by destroying self-esteem.
  3. Creates terror in the victim
  4. Ignores the basic needs of its victims
  5. Corrupts the values and behaviors of the victim
  6. Degrades the victim by robbing him/her of self-esteem
  7. Exploits its victim for the benefits of the abuser, especially from a temporary sense of power, false as it is–unleased during the abusive tirade.

-Verbal Abuse: Healing the Hidden Wound, p. 12&13

The victims of domestic violence with whom I have worked have often told me that the worst form of abuse is verbal abuse because they hear the sarcastic, negative, and scathing words in their heads no matter where they go: “You are stupid”, “You can’t do anything right”, “I wish you were never born”, “You make me sick”, “Why don’t you be like...”, “You are so fat (ugly, thin, tall, short)”. These negative statements play over and over again in a victim’s head like a record until she actually thinks it’s true. Then the abuser’s behavior reinforces what she believes.

For some victims this vicious abuse cycle repeats itself over and over again. What we are told about who we are contributes to the feelings we have of ourselves and then our feelings influence our behavior. We become “self-fulfilling prophets”.

Verbal abuse robs people of their dignity, making them feel worthless, senseless and powerless. When an individual feels powerless the door to their self-esteem is usually left open to be entered by someone who gradually maintains power and control over him.

We are admonished to be careful how we speak to each other because our words have an impact for good or for evil and will eventually come back to haunt us.

“What harm is wrought in the family circle by the utterance of impatient words, for impatient utterance of one leads another to retort in the same spirit and manner. Then come words of retaliation, words of self-justification, and it is by such words that a heavy, galling yoke is manufactured for your neck; for all these bitter words will come back in a baleful harvest to your soul.”

Review and Herald, Feb. 27, 1913.

“Burning words of passion should never be spoken, for in the sight of God and holy angels they are as a species of swearing.

-The Youth’s Instructor, Sept. 20, 1894.

“When one gives place to an angry spirit, he is just as much intoxicated as the man who has put the glass to his lips. While hatred is cherished in the soul, there is not one iota of love of God there.”

Our High Calling, p. 235.

“Harsh, angry words are not of heavenly origin. Scolding and fretting never helps. Instead, they stir up the worst feelings of the human heart.”

Child Guidance, p. 246.

Each one of us need to be careful of not only what we say, but how we say it, and the motivation behind our words. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Eph. 4:29, for “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” Proverbs 25:11.

O be careful little lips what you say
O be careful little lips what you say
For there’s a Father up above, looking down in tender love
So be careful little lips what you say.

(Author Unknown)