Our words are powerful. They can bring life or they can bring destruction. I’ve been known to be an open book. I can be direct. I don’t’ usually shy away from sharing an opinion or speaking my mind. Sometimes that’s a good thing. People always know where they stand with me. I don’t leave them guessing. But sometimes when words so freely flow from my mouth, I end up leaving collateral damage in my dust.
Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. James 3:5
I can remember her face to this day. A tired friend came to pick up her daughter from my house after I had been caring for her. I knew this mama well. She’s a straight shooter and tells it like it is. Assuming that she would appreciate the same approach, the second she walked in, I let her have it. “Callie,” I said with wide eyes, “Your daughter...” My jaw dropped just to emphasize my point a little more. “I can’t believe the way she talked to me. She was so disrespectful and was arguing in my face.”
Defeat flashed across my friends face.
There it was. I had laid it all out and couldn’t take my words back. Oh, how I wanted to. I wanted to just rewind. I wish I could have said “Can we have a restart?” But the damage was done. In three short sentences, I had made my friend feel like a failure. She was already feeling defeated at home and at school. And just in case there was any room for doubt, I unconsciously affirmed those feelings of failure.
Trying to justify my actions “It’s not my fault she feels that way’ I thought to myself. “All I did was speak the truth.” But the question wasn’t whether or not I spoke the truth. The question was, “Did I speak the truth in love?”
If you’re anything like me, we tend to defend ourselves and hide behind the fact that our hurtful words were true. Yes, they may be true, but do we have to share everything that is true? Does every thought, criticism, or opinion have to come out of our mouths? Or can we choose to offer grace, speak life, and let some things go?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we shrink back from speaking truth. Often times, sharing the truth is unavoidable and it’s important that we are able to have difficult conversations. I’m just suggesting we offer a different presentation. That we share the truth in love.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:35
When we have to have these difficult conversations, if we don’t sandwich them in love, our words have the potential to either fall on deaf ears or cause destruction in their path. When people know that we are a “safe place” and are “for” them, it makes a world of difference in whether or not they are responsive to the hard truths. Lord knows I need to do a better job with this…will you join me on this venture of speaking LIFE?