What one positive thing has a parent, friend, teacher, coach or mentor said to you when you were young? Do you still remember it vividly?
What one negative thing do you remember a parent, friend, teacher, coach or mentor saying to you when you were young? How did this comment affect you then? Does it still affect you today?
Personally, one of my most vivid memories is that of my 5th grade teacher and his picking on me playfully as he made a derogatory statement about some shoes I was wearing, or so I thought was a derogatory statement. They were new shoes – high heels (of sorts) – and one of my best friends had a pair just like them. I was so very proud of them! This was my first day to wear them, and I chose to wear a dress to school just so I could wear my new shoes (a maroon colored dress with cream colored lace, no doubt). The shoes looked something like this…
but they had more of a wedge and they were brown leather (pleather). They were also more open toed than this picture shows….more of a criss-cross pattern. I can’t imagine why I couldn’t find a picture of an exact replica of those shoes! I know…beautiful, right?! One of my best friends owned a pair just like them, so they MUST have been ‘all that’!
You may be wondering what the teacher said that crushed me so. I will tell you. He said, “What are you wearing those clod hoppers for!?” Well…not anything to go home crying to mom about, but that’s exactly how I felt at that moment. Who knows what was going on inside my head at that time to make me feel so crushed? I don’t know, but his words definitely made an impact that wasn’t so positive, so much so that I still remember it to this day. He didn’t mean anything by it. I realized this as I began to grow up. However, for some reason, it humiliated me and made me feel ‘less than’, and it stuck with me my whole life.
Unfortunately, we tend to hold on to the negative experiences rather than the positive, and as we hold on to them, they shape our world by adding to the next experience and the next and the next.
The book of James addresses how badly the tongue can bite and how hard it is to tame. James 3:1-12 says this about the tongue:
My brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all make many mistakes. If people never said anything wrong, they would be perfect and able to control their entire selves, too. 3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can control their whole bodies. 4 Also a ship is very big, and it is pushed by strong winds. But a very small rudder controls that big ship, making it go wherever the pilot wants. 5 It is the same with the tongue. It is a small part of the body, but it brags about great things.
A big forest fire can be started with only a little flame. 6 And the tongue is like a fire. It is a whole world of evil among the parts of our bodies. The tongue spreads its evil through the whole body. The tongue is set on fire by hell, and it starts a fire that influences all of life. 7 People can tame every kind of wild animal, bird, reptile, and fish, and they have tamed them, 8 but no one can tame the tongue. It is wild and evil and full of deadly poison. 9 We use our tongues to praise our Lord and Father, but then we curse people, whom God made like himself. 10 Praises and curses come from the same mouth! My brothers and sisters, this should not happen. 11 Do good and bad water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree make olives, or can a grapevine make figs? No! And a well full of salty water cannot give good water.
Words can bite so badly that they can speak death. Nothing has been more clear to me than this with the number of teen suicides recently that has struck our small town and surrounding areas, one of which happened the day after my husband and I watched the movie ‘Cyberbully’ together. I have been burdened ever since watching that movie knowing that, in this day & age of technology, it is much easier for people to bully as they hide behind the screen of a laptop, phone or ipod rather than having the courage to say something face to face. I think ALL schools should show this movie in their school system and help children realize that their words matter, whether they are typed or spoken.
The concept of how our words impact others does not stop with bullying, but it covers a realm of categories….gossip, ‘constructive’ criticism, ‘picking’ or playing, to name a few. I confess….I have been guilty of not tasting my words before I shared them with others, and I am not proud of this fact.
It is important for us all to remember that we never know what is going on with a person on the inside, so words can cut to the core or they can soothe the soul. Words speak life, or they speak death. Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out. If they are not sweet to taste, then do not share them with others.
Just T.H.I.N.K. before you speak. Ask yourself, “These words I am about to speak,
Are they TRUE?
Are they HELPFUL?
Do they INSPIRE CONFIDENCE?
Are they NECESSARY?
Are they KIND?
I pray that I am always aware of the words that I speak, and may I always speak life into others.
When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger. Then what you say will do good to those who listen to you. – Ephesians 4:29
More than anything today, I am preaching to myself.