We’ve all had the experience of having a disagreement that developed wings and flew way beyond the boundaries of the subject at hand. You find yourself wondering how you got from here…to there. The nature of human relationships makes misunderstanding a part of terrain we have to navigate. Because we’re individuals and have our own unique perspectives, learning how to engage and interact with one another is a lifelong learning process.
I tend to have a naive inclination to think that if I explain myself, eventually the ‘other’ will understand. While explanation and communication can be helpful and talking things out may help gain perspective, at the root of things, I’ve found that disagreements and discord are more about the heart of the matter than anything else. Wounded hearts, frazzled emotions, disgruntled thoughts, deflated pride – these do more to foster animosity amongst us than most of us would care to admit.
In Proverbs 26:20, we read these words: ‘For lack of wood a fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer quarreling ceases.’ This proverb has always held some fascination for me. In some translations, the whisperer is termed the ‘gossip’ or tattlebearer. When building a fire, kindling is required for the fire to continue to burn. This verse indicates that the fire of a quarrel is influenced by something or perhaps someone called a ‘whisperer’. Whispering, (the gentle muttering underneath the breath) apparently has the ability to serve as fuel for creating a scorched earth aftermath when it comes to relationships.
I am indebted to Brian Hardin of the Daily Audio Bible for his broadcast on October 29, 2014 for a particularly helpful insight on the nature of discord and how the ‘whisperer’ serves to fuel conflict in interpersonal relationships. In verse 22 of Proverbs chapter 26, we are informed that: “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels, they go down into the inner parts of the body.” This reference would indicate that in some fashion, whispering is able to transcend ordinaary speech and become part of the spiritual reality within the inner recesses of the human soul.
Most of us can relate to the conversation in your head after an argument or disagreement. You know, the seemingly endless barrage of ‘additional points’ one could have made but didn’t think about in the moment. But we don’t ask ourselves the question – WHO is continuing the argument after the situation has long receded? Could it be the ‘whisperer? The not so silent inner voice which wants to continue to score points, which wants to be right at all cost?
The whispering spirit is a type of temptation. One which is intimately acquainted with the human condition. It speaks to us with our own voice, lulling us into the fantasy of absorbing the morsels of poison being fed into our inner parts without questioning the source. Because it is a type of fuel, disagreements continue unabated until the earth is scorched. Unfortunately, the terrain in question is the charred remains of human relationships which are sometimes irrevocably changed by the words of the tongue.
So is there a solution? I think Proverbs 26:20 gives us some vital information. We all know that fire needs certain conditions in which to burn. Remove the oxygen or the wood and it eventually goes out. The same can be said for the ‘whisperer’. We must recognize that not every voice which speaks to us is speaking for our benefit. In James 3:6, we are told that the tongue is a flame, a world of evil – potentially a world of evil which has the capacity to set the whole course of a life aflame. This gives one pause to think about how devastating the impact of evil whispered words can be.
We must learn to take authority over the ‘whisperer’ by negating its power to control and ruin our lives and relationships. The Bible tells us that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty for bringing down strongholds and things which exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. (2 Corinthians 10:4)
We don’t have to simply swallow morsels which assuage our pride; we can make a conscious choice to stop consuming these toxic mental suggestions. We can make a decision to stop fueling the flame of distortions and judgemental thinking. When the fuel is removed, the fire eventually dies out. It will take time and energy and grace to rebuild what has been destroyed, but if we continue to let the fire burn unabated, that process of regeneration cannot commence.