Wednesday, February 10, 2016

its not just semantics

It's been said that the words you use when you speak to your dog mean very little.  As long as your words are said in a joyful, sing song tone your canine friend will jump in your lap, cuddle up, attempt to cover you with kisses and think they are loved beyond all reason.  For example, if you say, "hey you stupid thing you're so gross and hairy and annoying, yes you are!" in that lovable way that even the toughest of tough can conjure up with their furry friends then you are giving them words of complete affirmation because the sound they hear is full of love and appreciation.  My late golden retriever daughter Daisy was often on the other side of less than loving words dripping with affection.

It's not that easy with the human kind.  Yes, the tone of our words absolutely does matter and that is a lesson we all learn and usually the hard way as we get hurt or hurt others with a sharper tongue than anticipated or with one that was sharpened just for the occasion.  Yes, it's true that you will catch more bees with honey and no one is better at that than the truly southern lady or the British aristocracy, both having the uncanny ability to put you in your place without losing their polished sense of decorum.

Beyond the way our voice tumbles forth, beyond the sing song and the sugars and the bless your hearts, are the phrases we put together to share our thoughts or advice or commands.  The sounds of my voice can not cover up the heart behind my words and so it goes with everyone else as well.  Out of the mouth your heart speaks (Matt 15:18) and no amount of honey can sweeten words that come from a heart not abiding in the love of Christ and desiring to carry that forward.

What feels like ages ago, and actually was if I'm being honest with myself, was a young twenty something girl attempting to mold young second grade minds.  It took about a week before a verse was printed out in color and BOLD print and taped to a desk never to be removed even when that job was abandoned for a life at home with a blond baby boy.  There for me to look at every time I needed it, which was every second of the day, was Ephesians 4:29, 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.

This was not a banner for my Christian holiness but a necessary and sometimes desperate attempt to keep myself in line with the Spirit and not give into my flesh when children act how they will in fact act, when parents doubt your abilities, and when you are tempted to be sucked in to the other adults around you whose desire to vent is way too tempting.

That verse has stuck with me.  It lives inside my head and appears quite frequently, mostly when I'm begging for the reminder and occasionally when I'd rather it leave me alone so the words welling within me can erupt and give me that brief bit of satisfaction before the after effects set in.  It encourages me when I'd rather hide from conversation than confront it.  It aids me as I search for words to to help and build. It allows me to be silent and listen instead as other's are carrying out it's commands in my life.

It's a daily ritual for me to ask my boys, after they have said something, to try again, to rephrase whatever words they shared in a better way to get the outcome they really desire.  Even in those marital discussions that we like to pretend aren't really arguments, I have been known to respond with "...but if you had just said it in this way I wouldn't have gotten so upset."  Most often though it's me looking back at my words, at my responses, at the ways I could have rephrased to be a help instead of part of the problem, to build up and not be unwholesome.

Our words carry weight.  Our words have the ability to harm and to heal.  And if given without thought, without prayer, without purpose, they will explode into the air missing important targets and leaving shrapnel in places that might take years to discover, no matter the voice that accompanied them.  

The world may call this semantics, changing our words for greater appeal.  I think God calls it speaking the truth in love (Eph 4:15).  Truth doesn't mean blunt honesty with no thought of another's feelings.  Just as love does not mean avoiding a topic because of affection or saying only what people want to hear.  The two must go together as you love someone enough to bring them honesty in a caring way, the honest words they need and you need to grow into a closer relationship with each other and in a closer relationship with Christ.

Believe me when I say you do not want to speak love without truth because consequences come as you try to please and appease instead of confidently standing up for yourself or instead of confronting another in their sin for fear that anger and defensiveness could be the result.  I am an example in more situations than one, a recovering people pleaser with plenty of scars to show for my efforts.  Just as important, is to not spew words of truth because you know it's truth without allowing The Spirit to soften them first.  Cuts of criticism do not heal quickly when the soothing act of love is not alongside to assist.

In the end, though,  I will fall short more often than not, but can rest in the Hope I have that I am loved and I am forgiven and that my best efforts and my most massive mistakes can be redeemed by my Creator and used to bring Him glory.

*If you would like to read more in this not so planned series about words please check out these thoughts on words and asking the right questions.  I would love to hear your thoughts!

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