Over the last several days we’ve been taking a look at some of the most common pitfalls of the way families communicate. This time we’ll be considering a problem that is among the most often complained about, nagging.
Nagging is a constant and disrespectful complaining, criticizing, or fault-finding. It’s aim is to force or manipulate the other person by verbal harassment to do what you want. It is different from a humble, persistent appeal for something truly important or necessary; the attitude of humility or disrespect being one of the key differences.
The unfortunate fact is that nagging often works. Like the drip, drip, dripping of water on a stone, resistance is just worn down, so that the nagger gets what they want. It is manipulation and a variety of extortion: “Give me what I want or I will continue to harass you with my words.” However, “doing whatever works” (in this case, nagging) is not Christian behavior; rather, it is typical worldly conduct.
Because nagging is about words (the strong suit of most women), it is a tool often used by women; Proverbs 27:15 tells us “A constant dripping on a day of steady rain And a contentious woman are alike.” Nagging works, as we noted above, but only temporarily—and with consequences. We’re warned in Proverbs 14:1 “The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.” The disrespect that accompanies nagging toward husbands and children tears relationships down “brick by brick”.
Nagging, however, isn’t the sole domain of women; men are guilty of it, too. It’s one thing to be respectfully consistent and even persistent about standards and expectations, as husbands and as fathers. But when it gets accompanied by eye-rolling, name-calling, and nasty attitudes it shifts from appropriate husbanding and fathering to angry, destructive nagging. The wise man reminds us in Proverbs 10:19, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise.”
And kids, you aren’t immune from this warning either. The attitudes and habits of nagging that show up later in marriage and family are usually developed as children and teens—toward siblings, parents, teachers, and even friends. Do your present self and future family a big favor, nip it in the bud now. Refuse to sink to level of disrespectful complaining, criticizing, and fault-finding. Refuse to harass others in order to manipulate them to do what you want. Take Paul’s advice here, especially the second part of the command, (1 Timothy 4:12) “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.”
Whether used by men, women, children, or parents; nagging isn’t good. It is worldly, it is not pleasant, it does not yield any permanent results, almost always produces resentment, and promotes avoidance rather than unity (nobody wants to hang around a nag). So, watch out how you communicate your complaints, petitions, critiques, and persistence; let your words and attitude reflect respect and love toward others. It is what Jesus did and what disciples of Jesus must cultivate in their own communications—just as Paul taught (Ephesians 4:29), “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.”