“My ex is such a jerk. He is slothful and dishonest. He is a cheater at everything he does. He is selfish and mean and I can’t stand the sight of him! If my kids grow up to be like him I don’t know what I’ll do!”
Imagine yourself as a little girl or boy or even a teenager who loves your father. You hear your mother on another tirade about him as she speaks to yet another adult of the trials she suffers as a result your father’s actions. Maybe what she says is true. Maybe not. That doesn’t matter to you. You just hear it over and over again, then go to his house and hear things just as bad about her.
These people embodied God to you. They modeled all of the attributes that you needed to develop into a mature and wise adult. Your mom provided you with nurturing and warmth. Your dad sheltered you with his strength. Both of them provided a secure environment in which to grow and learn. You knew they both loved you. Then one day your vision of home and family shattered, and you couldn’t comprehend the destruction.
Perhaps your family’s scenario differs from the one I have illustrated. There are as many variables as there are broken homes. However, there remains this consistent truth; you will bring about ruin if you do not hold your tongue. Proverbs 13:3 says, “The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; the one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”
How to Bring About Ruin in One Easy Step
The devastation caused by the split of a family can be handled many ways. Parents of children from broken homes and/or in blended families must do everything possible to prevent bitterness from further damaging their children’s spirits. Your mouth provides a direct route for bitterness to access your children. Proverbs 12:18 says, “There is one who speaks rashly like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” If wise you will aim to sooth the wounds of these children with words of love and encouragement.
Resist the temptation to speak poorly of your ex-spouse. Hearing malicious language regarding their parents, sears the hearts of children. This may sound obvious to you, but consider comments you may make under your breath such as, “We could afford that if I received child support,” or the reverse, “I would be able to afford to take you if I didn’t give all my money to your mom,” or “He wouldn’t be late picking you up in the morning if he wasn’t out partying so late at night.” These comments are as the “thrusts of the sword” to your child’s heart. Children care about both parents and may struggle with conflicting feelings of loyalty and rejection. This confusion is compounded by children witnessing a raging battle between the parents. Some children blame themselves for the divorce. This burden must not be carried by the children. As parents, you deal with the burden.
What if They ARE Wicked?
In the context of the blended family, you might consider your new spouse’s ex-spouse and that extended family a bad example, or even more “convenient,” downright evil. However, the truth of God’s word is still the truth. As a member of a blended family the same principles must be applied to speaking of the stepchildren’s “other” family even if they are living immoral or destructive lives.
Psalm 39:1 states, “I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard it as with a muzzle, while the wicked are in my presence.” There is no excuse for speaking ruin into your family, no matter what the circumstances. You must hold your tongue…bite it, bind it, whatever you must do to keep venomous words from cascading forth and flattening the children.
Consider as well your example to the other family. In Proverbs 18:19 we are told that, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle.” Allow God to use you to win them over. Their lives could change because your behavior was Godly, above reproach.
A Godly Example
God has given you an influential position as a stepparent; that of a role model for children who are not biologically your own. As, possibly, the only follower of Christ in your stepchildren’s lives, how do you want them to view Christians? Do you want them to adopt your behaviors? Do you want them to view Christians as bitter, jealous, resentful or full of spite and malice toward their other parent, or would you rather show them the love of God and the grace for living in difficult circumstances while relying on the strength of the Lord? Practice self-control in your speech, and provide them with a Godly example to follow.
Protect Them from Legitimate Harm
Having said all of this, some circumstances require you to divulge negative information about their family to the children. When children’s safety is a legitimate concern, carefully weigh the threat of harm in telling them against the harm that could come to the children if you do not prepare them for the possibility. Examine your motives. Pray for wisdom and guidance.
Some things definitely need to be discussed with the children for their own protection. Examples of topics to discuss include; drunk driving, molestation, illicit drug use, physical abuse, medical neglect, lack of supervision or food. When discussing these things with the children, don’t speak in a degrading or hateful manner, and don’t say too much too soon. Speak gently and in simple terms with your children as the need arises, and be sure to offer to pray about the situation with them.
Preserve your Life
Use your tongue to uplift and encourage the children. Use it to pray for them and their extended families. Use it to pray with the children for their other parents. Praying with them will go a long way toward their healing and maturing as Christians themselves. In all ways and at all times guard your mouth for, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Proverbs 18:21
Remember Proverbs 13:3, “If you guard your mouth you will preserve your life.” If you are not actively preserving your life, there is an enemy, Satan, who is out to destroy it, and he will wherever he can. Be cautious with your words, hold your tongue.
Ginny Warren is the wife of Steve and mother of 5 children; she has 2 sons-in-law and one grandchild. She owns and operates two businesses (one with Steve) and writes in her "free" time. Family comes first for Steve and Ginny, and they feel great satisfaction in raising a successful blended family. © Ginny Warren. Used with permission.