What One Thing Is My Best Friend And Worst Enemy?

24 Sep

“Words, Melissa. Words.”

This three “word” sentence has been following me around. It mostly started off as a joke between Mark and myself, when one of us (usually me) would say something that would come off sounding unintentionally hurtful. We all have hot buttons that people who we trust can push. With a few little words, I know that I could say something incredibly harsh and painful to the people I love the most and vice-versa. Words can hurt or words can help. They can bring life or they can bring death…

I’ve been studying words all weekend, unintentionally.

I happened to be at a park watching a soccer game full of 10 year olds on Sunday when I heard the coach yelling at one of his players. Mind you, this kid was 10! “Pedro, that’s not good enough. There’s no excuse for that! What are you doing?!” the coach yelled, as Pedro missed “heading” a ball. I couldn’t help but thinking, does this man know the damage he is inflicting on Pedro? Will Pedro be sitting in his therapist’s office 15 years from now still trying to live up to this man’s expectations? I certainly hope not ,but then I think back to things that people have said to me and they do stick.  What Pedro probably needed in that moment wasn’t a scolding but an encouragement from a man he looks up to. But the coach didn’t offer him that. And sadly, in a way, he failed little Pedro.

In another episode on the train, I heard a young woman talking to a new acquaintance in a rather loud voice. From listening to her words, I could tell that she didn’t really realize the impact of what she was saying to those around her. She was talking about her first tattoo when she was 12 and how the ink had faded. Then she offhandedly mentioned that she could totally beat people up (using much more colorful language than I care to repeat). She mentioned a pregnant friend that she “smacked around” but now they are “cool.” Of course she said it in a way that seemed normative for her and I kept thinking how tiring it must be to have to constantly try to prove yourself using your words.  What must it be like to go through life without a filter?

And then this morning I heard a very convicting sermon about the power of words.  I realized that I wasn’t too different from the coach or the girl on the train. My words constantly come out of my mouth too quickly and I don’t often pause to take stock of what I’m saying. I just talk because that’s who I am.  Sometimes it works, but other times I’m left apologizing.

On a good day, my words can build people up and bring people together like my last blog post about my grandma.  Today I found out that my words had really impacted my mom. My words in that situation had made her so grateful that I would even think to write something that resembled a tribute to my Grandma. That was a good feeling.

Other times, my words have caused division. I’ve gossiped. I’ve tried too hard. I’ve hurt Mark’s feelings. I’ve really just blown it. So I do my best to apologize and ask for forgiveness. What I’ve realized is how much of a battle this actually is for me. I’m not sure if I’m alone in this, but sometimes taming my tongue is virtually impossible. I have so many thoughts throughout the day that I can’t say that I just burst at the seams when I’m around friends and family.  So I tried something.

The sermon convicted me that I can’t just overcome my word issues on my own. I have to take it to God and ask for help. I prayed this morning and I honestly think it’s made a huge difference. I’m more aware of what I say to everyone from the auditors in our office to the people who call in for my boss to my bosses and more. And I’ve started to notice their words. I want it to be said that I’m an encourager, not a “Negative Nelly.” I want my words to bring light and love and life, not death. Not discouragement. Not anger or frustration. Not anxiety or hopelessness.

I come back to this a lot but it’s important. Are my words really reflecting who I am on the inside or are they just echoing a part of myself that is dissatisfied, grumpy, and wanting to bring others down? If that’s the case, I need to stop, take a breath, and pray.

It’s okay to pause between words. It’s okay to not answer right away. It’s okay to not spread my opinion to everyone or blurt out something that makes someone I am close to hurt or distrust me.

Proverbs 12:18 says “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

I hope to not thrust swords, but bring healing and life. With God’s help and grace, I pray that it is so!

What about you and your words? Do you struggle with the right words to say?


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