Fighting Words

The Apostle Paul writes to his disciple Timothy:

Remind everyone about these things, and command them in God’s presence to stop fighting over words. Such arguments are useless, and they can ruin those who hear them (2 Timothy 2:14, NLT).

Have you ever spoken words that you immediately wished that you could take back? Have you won an argument but felt terrible afterward? Have you felt your words needlessly tearing down another person?

The Greek word for “fighting” is “machomai.” Nike makes a shoe for boxing that it brands the “Machomai.” Sometimes, I feel I’ve been in a boxing match after a conversation.  

I don’t like to be pummeled with words and when I pummel others to submission, I don’t feel victorious. Once a leader of a church said to me, “I can’t win a debate with you, but I still disagree with you.”

I won but I felt terrible.

I should have learned back then not to – as the NASB1995 translates – “wrangle about words.” This is a topic in which I have learned too much from failure.

Below are three behaviors that indicate a word fight brewing: 

  • Someone will say, “I didn’t say that.” And another will shout, “You did too.” When you are hurling words – without considering the meaning, intentions, and impact of those words – and not even remembering what you said, that’s wrangling.
  • When a conversation leads to participants Googling supporting data during a disagreement – both combatants have entered the boxing ring.
  • Great conversations don’t end with the throw-down conclusion, “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”  
  • When words become weapons, thrown to hurt and win, watch out!

In 2 Timothy 2:14, the Greek words translated “fighting over words” is a blend of two words put together. One is “machomai” and the other is “logos.” Or machomai (fighting) and logos (words).  

Fighting words.  

Paul gives advice on communicating without fighting over words in another verse:

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear (Ephesians 4:29, NASB1995).

Paul indicates “logos” or words can be unwholesome and rotten and that we should speak “logos” or words that edify. “Edify” comes from a pictorial Greek word that means “build the house.” 

Words can either destroy relationships or make godly connections. Your choice – fighting words or building words?

Two simple questions can turn conversations from “fighting words” to “building words.”  Ask yourself, before throwing the first punch during a word exchange…

Am I giving grace right now? Will this person feel better at the end of this conversation?

I’m a slow learner when it comes to deleting “fighting words” from my repertoire of communication skills. I have learned that at the end of a conversation, if the other person feels better, then I feel better.  

Not vice versa!