At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.
– Maya Angelou
It was several months ago that my friend’s big blue eyes filled up with tears as I watched one slide down the side of her face. She was hurting as only a mother’s heart can hurt.
She explained to me that “Lauren”, her teenager had recently been made fun of by a bunch of school “friends” teasing her about her appearance. Additionally, someone had said something snarky about a grade Lauren had made on a test (it was a B, but all the smart girls made A’s). This was particularly painful, as Lauren works very hard academically. She attends a school where it sometimes feels like only academic excellence is recognized, and that is not “B’s”. For my friend’s daughter, no matter how she tried, she did not feel like she “measured up.”
Angry and frustrated, my friend shared that she could tell Lauren all day long that the snide comments didn’t matter. As a mother, she would encourage Lauren that she is beautiful in God’s eyes….that she is made especially to His specifications….however, to a young woman experiencing the growing-up years, those truths don’t always resonate. Too often, public opinion of peers is paramount. This is why we ALL need to be so very careful with our words, whether we are young or old.
It was just a few years ago while studying the book of Matthew that I realized how very serious God is about the power of words. Jesus told the apostles, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:35-37.
Acquitted or condemned? Let me tell you, that this scripture scares me, as frequently my own mouth runneth over….I have learned the hard way –both in the giving and receiving that hurtful words can be like nails in a fence; once they go in, they will leave a hole…even if you pull them back out again. Those holes will ultimately weaken the fence. So it goes with people too.
God’s Straight Path:
Last night, I was reading a devotion by Pastor John Piper and was reminded of this very thing. Though God gives us spiritual gifts to be used for His purpose, we are also prone to spiritual weaknesses. For me, it has always been about words. It was words that I read in a book that called me to know Christ, it is words that I write with now to share my testimony, it is words that I love with and words that I judge with. I pray daily that God will give me His power over my words.
Who among us has not been a “Lauren” before? When I was her age, I was very sarcastic. I could insult you with the most acerbic of tongues and it would take 10 minutes before you realized you had been sliced and diced. Not good.
Maybe that is why this conversation about Lauren has lingered so long in my mind. I know the softness of her heart and I get that her pain is real…So I remind myself today and every day to take control of my words. Not easy.
But I can say that over time, God has sensitized me to my weaknesses. When I use words to hurt someone, it truly gives me physical pain in my heart. As a mother of teenage boys, I am constantly aware of this as well….for myself and for them. I frequently remind, “Our words should be used to bring life, not death to others.” God says it better though, as He addresses this issue over and over in His Word:
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”. Ephesians 4:29
- The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
- Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.
- Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy.
- No harm overtakes the righteous, but the wicked have their fill of trouble.
- The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.
A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends. Proverbs 16:28
In writing this, I am reminded of the wisdom of my own mother, as she always warned me, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say it at all!”
Ah yes, we can trust the heart of a mother…and best to follow the advice of our (heavenly) Father. 😉
Set a guard over my mouth Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14
- Power of Words (daughterbydesign.wordpress.com)