The reactions of the human heart are not mechanical and predictable, but infinitely subtle and delicate. – Daisaku Ikeda
As I prepared for church on Sunday morning, I had a few topics on my mind to write about for Monday, but nothing that really stuck, so as I was in the shower I asked God to give me something while attending church today. That was my prayer and I trusted that He would speak to me as He always does. During praise and worship, it came to me very clearly. I thought about the phrase “giving life”. There are many ways that these two words can be interpreted, so for clarification of this post, I am specifically speaking about the words we use towards others as well as ourselves. Do your words speak life or speak death? Do they give hope or attempt to cast doubt? Some of you may be completely aloof to the fact that you’re a culprit to this activity to the most important people in your life. I don’t believe that any of us that have even a partially healthy mind will engage in such behavior knowingly. That said we also know that what we don’t know can still hurt us or someone else. So it doesn’t really matter if we’re aware of the fact or not. Our mere words could slowly and methodically be dismantling someone’s dreams or encouraging them to strive further. Do you ever consider this? According to Proverbs 18:21 NKJV, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue”.
That is a pretty strong claim for scripture to make, but if and when you think about it, the statement does make sense. As we spend time engaging with family and friends and networking with our colleagues, we’re either performing one or the other, speaking life or speaking death. So consider this fact. According to a study, a woman uses 20,000 words per day while the average man uses about 7,000. That means women have 35% more opportunities daily than men to uplift or destroy. Imagine that!
When you place this statistic in relationship to what a nurturing mother looks like, it will totally resonate with most of us.
What about when we remove the parent role out of the picture and just consider ourselves doing life as we do? What does that look like? Do you consider or even care what your words mean to others? Do you believe they have an impact? The best way for us to fully understand this and embrace it is to place ourselves in the shoes as a recipient. When was the last time that someone said encouraging or hurtful words to you? Don’t pretend that you don’t remember. These words are forever seared in our thoughts and we often recall them without much effort. So consider them as I share my own story in relation to this topic.
It was a dark season in my life. I was depressed and had made some very poor decisions in regards to a relationship. I wasn’t sure what to do or how to respond just yet, but hiding under a rock was quite appealing during that time. I was embarrassed and felt like a failure to everyone that I knew. In my mind I had let everyone down, because I was the one who was supposed to have a different story, a different outcome, a better ending. But I didn’t and according to my own set of values and rules, along with the expressed thoughts of some others, I indeed was a failure. I recall a specific conversation with someone who chose to tell me about myself (according to their ideas) with partial facts, little love and zero empathy. The sad part was this individual had experienced what I did at least 3-4 times, but in that moment those facts had no relevance to him. As my Christian brother commenced to set me straight, at first I tried to defend myself, but I quickly realized this would be to no avail, so I listened to his dissertation about my situation, or what he believed to be true about it as I sunk in my chair, lower and lower I sunk. Thankfully he was a man, so the words were few, but they still hurt very deeply. Now was it his intent to hurt me? I really don’t believe that it was, but the damage was completely done, so quite honestly it did not matter what his intent was, for I left him emotionally wounded, more distraught and left for dead like road kill. Maybe my analogy about road kill sounds very extreme, but it’s imperative that you get it, because what you don’t know can hurt others, deeply.
This is how it feels when we use words that don’t speak life. They kill, they steal and they destroy.
Today my pastor made some very important statements that tie directly into this topic during his message today. The most prolific one was, “People are not our enemy, no matter what the situation is”. If you’re like me, you have heard this statement many times, and if you’re like me, practicing it is a bit harder to do. Sometimes in the moments when we should be “living this out” the most, I think we (me included) forget to. So when someone does something, believes in something or takes a position that we don’t agree with, in that moment we can either choose to agree to disagree and walk away respectfully or we can fight, use malicious words towards one another and draw lines that undeniably separate us. But again I ask as my pastor did, “is that person really your enemy? Or is it that we just have a different set of values?
I personally believe that all people should stand for what they believe in, fight if necessary even, but much of what people fight for these days is not very worthy of fighting for, let alone dying for. Families that fight one another, communities that fight one another, politicians whose arguments are based on party factions versus facts and churches that have internal battles with no real justifiable cause, dilute the message that Jesus came to the earth for. To save the lost, but when the ones that are supposed to be bearing the message of hope, spend more time destroying one another with poisonous words and arguing over irrelevant issues, what hope do the alleged lost have and who is really lost in that moment? I’ll leave you to ponder on that.
So back to my earlier story. After I recovered from being ridiculed by this man proclaiming to tell me the truth in love who conveniently chose to leave the “love” part out, I realize now how important it is to use words that give life versus death. I never want to make someone feel like I did, irregardless of the circumstances. It totally solved nothing, but perhaps it made him feel better. I realize that people no matter what they do or attempt to do to me are not my enemy. That perspective will help me fight the right battles, engage in appropriate conversations and realize the ones that I should outright avoid.