Poem: In the Absence of Kinder Words

Updated on December 24, 2018
Leland Johnson profile image

Sometimes poetry is able to capture our sentiments better than long explanations. I hope this poem reaches you in this way.

Who can Tame the Tongue?

In the absence of kinder words

harsher ones remain.

Tongues that could bring healing

instead, bring only pain.

My vision grows myopic

seeing only wounds I've felt.

I pay back double every blow,

each insult I've been dealt.

I must because if I do not

all would think I'm weak.

If that becomes the thought they think

imagine what they'll speak!

Concerns about concerns over words

said carelessly...

Why do I care so much about what others

say of me?

Reproach upon reproach

builds a wall I must surmount.

The odds of which decrease

with each considered count.

Now I'm working to ignore

slander's slippery slope,

finding peace and charity

better ways to cope.

It means I have discovered

a higher way to seek,

my vindication found

when I turn the other cheek.

It does not mean I cannot speak truth

so long as done in love,

just that I am justified

by Justice from above.

Now let the tongues of men tell tales,

let them all wag free.

They may influence other minds

but they cannot harm me.

I move forward past the corpses

that so many lies have slain

by those who set kind words aside

while harsher ones remain.

If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.

— Matthew 5:39

What Does it Mean to "Turn the Other Cheek?"

The phrase "turn the other cheek" is a Middle Eastern colloquialism that means we should not trade insult for insult. It is NOT a commentary forbidding self-defense as some pacifistic interpretations have rendered it. This text is more in keeping with the principle found in Romans 12:17 where Paul exhorts the Roman church not to "repay evil for evil, being careful to do what is right."

There are many verses in the Bible that discourage trading insults, arguing, gossip, etc. I am including a brief list below should you wish to conduct your own study on this subject.

Thanks for reading!

Bible Verses About Arguing

Job 16:3
Will your long-winded speeches never end? What ails you that you keep on arguing?
Philippians 2:14
Do everything without grumbling or arguing.
James 4:1-3
What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Leland Johnson


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      • Leland Johnson profile imageAUTHOR

        Leland Johnson 

        4 weeks ago from Midland MI

        Thank you, Shannon, and you're welcome. It's been a pleasure corresponding with you.

      • shanmarie profile image

        Shannon Henry 

        4 weeks ago from Texas

        Thanks, Leland, for such a kind reply. I wasn't so much feeling pained, just introspective. Advice offered out of kindness and good intentions is never a bad thing, though. Yes, there's always some pain for me regarding things like this. But any lingering sadness associated with things like this usually has more to do with my point of view about forgiveness rather than any pain that may have been inflicted at some point. It's hard to explain, but I forgive easily and I don't grab hold of anger and hold on. Once I genuinely care for someone that doesn't just go away even when I must stay away. It's something few people understand if I try to explain. But thanks again for your kind words.

      • Leland Johnson profile imageAUTHOR

        Leland Johnson 

        4 weeks ago from Midland MI

        I'm sorry you had to go through that painful experience. I think it's especially difficult to go through things like this when it involves a family member or a co-worker because both are difficult to stay away from. I can tell you are a genuinely sensitive person because you're even tuned into the things you're not feeling, and are concerned about not becoming numb or indifferent. I've been seeing that every situation is unique as to how we should deal with people who insult us. At work we might be able to diplomatically approach a person and confront their behavior, if not we can write them up or talk to a supervisor. We can attempt to draw boundaries with loved ones or others within our social circles and hope they respond appropriately. Sometimes we can choose to just not be around someone, and if they ask why- then we have the freedom to tell them. "I care about you, but I don't like the way you talk to me so I've stayed away." I know you didn't ask for advice, and you're free to dismiss it, but I thought I sensed pain in your response and felt like maybe I could share some "what works for me" stuff with you. God bless you, Shannon and take care of your emotional health :)

      • shanmarie profile image

        Shannon Henry 

        4 weeks ago from Texas

        Thanks, Leland. You made me think, too. There have only been a couple times in my life where I actually felt the way I described. One was so recent that it came to mind when I read this. I realized when the insults were hurled that I'd simply come to expect them and was prepared enough not to actually feel anything at all about it for quite some time. And that seemed worse than feeling anger or even feeling something as small as annoyance.

      • Leland Johnson profile imageAUTHOR

        Leland Johnson 

        4 weeks ago from Midland MI

        Shannon- I very much appreciate your sensitive and considered comment. I agree with you that it isn't healthy to enter a desensitized response. I believe God wants those who follow Him to be servants, not doormats. Forbearing? Yes. Abused? Rarely. Certainly Jesus was abused in during his earthly life, but how often the gospel accounts find him arguing his point with the Pharisees and Saducees, as well as political leaders of his day. There may be a time in this life where God would require a person to undergo such a suffering, but I think He would make such an incidence known to us. We aren't meant to be "pushovers" or "spineless." We have an obligation to our mental and spiritual health, and sometimes that means making boundaries. Thanks again, Shannon. You really made me think.

      • Leland Johnson profile imageAUTHOR

        Leland Johnson 

        4 weeks ago from Midland MI

        RTalloni- Thank you for reading and commenting. I know it is easy to slip into the mud of gossip, complaining, backbiting, etc, but I think you said something important in regard to this battle: "...remember His Word for living out the faith He has granted." Well said, and making remembering God's goodness something we practice certainly helps doesn't it! I have a friend who once told me before he gets out of bed he lists 10 things to be thankful for. I think it's a great way to practice thankfulness and to fight back "every doctrine that exalts itself above the knowledge of God." Thanks again.

      • shanmarie profile image

        Shannon Henry 

        4 weeks ago from Texas

        Very thought-provoking poem. I've managed to find peace at times by "turning the other cheek", but my concern for myself is when I become desensitized by the insults to the point of no reaction at all. Not even to feel the sting of the pain because it becomes so expected. It's a balance between listening to my heart and to my head both. Finding the balance is the tricky part sometimes.

      • RTalloni profile image


        4 weeks ago from the short journey

        An amazing poem beautifully done. Thank you for sharing your work here and for adding the references. Oh that we would always display the grace of the Lord Jesus. His mercy to me calls me to obedience in word and deed, but I am so prone to wander. How thankful I am for all the ways He helps me remember His Word for living out the faith He has granted!

      • Leland Johnson profile imageAUTHOR

        Leland Johnson 

        4 weeks ago from Midland MI

        Hi Paula, thank you for your thoughts. I always appreciate your insights :) Peace to you my friend, Leland

      • fpherj48 profile image


        4 weeks ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

        Leland.....A wonderful & profound poem that will lead your readers to contemplate. What you convey speaks volumes of our humanness. It seems the few moments it takes to consider repercussions, rarely occurs when human nature steps in to defend.......it's over-powering.

        Perhaps we'd do well to accept the super power of silence?

        Have a Blessed Holiday Season, Leland....Peace, Paula

      • Leland Johnson profile imageAUTHOR

        Leland Johnson 

        4 weeks ago from Midland MI

        Hi Flourish- that's a good way of looking at it. Sometimes just not engaging is a victory in itself. Thanks for stopping by :)

      • FlourishAnyway profile image


        5 weeks ago from USA

        I enjoyed your insights here. Sometimes strength can be shown by standing down.

      • Leland Johnson profile imageAUTHOR

        Leland Johnson 

        5 weeks ago from Midland MI

        Very well said, Mary. Thank you for commenting.

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 

        5 weeks ago from Ontario, Canada

        " I move forward past the corpses

        that so many lies have slain..."

        I love these lines. How true that our words have hurt many and I can only ask forgiveness for it now that I have gained a bit of wisdom, kind words are the best.

      • Leland Johnson profile imageAUTHOR

        Leland Johnson 

        5 weeks ago from Midland MI

        Hi Miss Dora- thank YOU for reading! It's been a long hard lesson for me to learn, and to tell the truth- some days I feel like I'm at square one. Thank God I know the way- I just have to walk it. Cheers.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        5 weeks ago from The Caribbean

        Thanks for showing "a higher way to seek . . . vindication. This is a message we need to hear as often as possible.

      • Leland Johnson profile imageAUTHOR

        Leland Johnson 

        5 weeks ago from Midland MI

        Verlie Burroghs- what an interesting name you have! Sounds like an author for sure. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      • Leland Johnson profile imageAUTHOR

        Leland Johnson 

        5 weeks ago from Midland MI

        Louise- Thank you for reading and commenting. The "turn the other cheek" quote seems to be getting attention :)

      • Leland Johnson profile imageAUTHOR

        Leland Johnson 

        5 weeks ago from Midland MI

        Mark- good insight. I think it's in the ball park for sure.

      • Mark Tulin profile image

        Mark Tulin 

        5 weeks ago from Santa Barbara, California

        I take turn the other cheek to mean, turn to the positive. Have a peaceful holiday.

      • Coffeequeeen profile image

        Louise Powles 

        5 weeks ago from Norfolk, England

        That's a lovely poem, I enjoyed reading it. I have heard the phase 'turn the other cheek' before.

      • snakeslane profile image

        Verlie Burroughs 

        5 weeks ago from Canada

        Great poem, great references. I've always tried to avoid gossip, it is sad how some seem to thrive on it.


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