Friday, January 10, 2014

Sticks and Stones

I don't know why they told us that sticks and stones could break our bones, but words would never hurt us. You'll notice that boys intuitively know this isn't true. They know that a good old fashion brawl can accomplish something that words fail to do. Now I'm not advocating for fighting - I want to make that perfectly clear. I do want to prove the point, though, that more often than not hurtful words leave longer lasting scars than a punch to the face.

Our words can do one of two things - they can build us up or they can send a lethal blow that causes our hearts and our self-esteem to come crumbling down. Thankfully, time heals most, if not all, of these wounds and the rebuilt structure of our self stands stronger than ever in the light of a new day. However, this isn't always the case. Some people bounce back quicker than others. Some people are more apt at letting things "slide off". For some of us, words carry such a strong power that they stick to us like tar, weighing us down and constantly reminding us of the nastiness hurled in our direction. The sensitive souls out there know exactly what I'm talking about.

The ones who replay events and conversations over and over again right before bed. The ones who, despite their best efforts, can't seem to get out of their own head. My best friend and I often refer to these periods of time as being overly self-aware. Too in-tuned with our interactions and our heightened inhibitions. Too aware of every nuance in conversation and body language with those around us. Always on guard in case we cross a line and pay the price socially, or even worse internally.

It's an interesting cycle, though. Because the real thing keeping us to hyper-aware is pride. Taking ourselves too seriously to allow for any failure or stumbling. It is almost counter-intuitive that the best remedy for feeling down about yourself is to actually go out and proactively seek to build someone else up. To shift focus from your own hurt heart and worry about tending to the cares of someone else's.

Scripture addresses these issues so beautifully, not minimizing them but rather acknowledging the destructive nature of human deceit and pointing to community in Christ as the solution. Additionally, we are told that words do carry a lot of weight. So much so, that we should be selective in what words come out of our mouths in any given situation, so that our words may be used to build each other up and thus glorify God.

"And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ," -Ephesians 4:11-16

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." -Ephesians 4:29

I find that when I'm not constant in prayer, I have a tendency to have a loose tongue, which gets me in trouble a lot of time. Events over the last few weeks and months have reminded me of this, and I know it's something I need to be more prayerful about. See, when we use our words to build ourselves up, it often has the opposite effect. Forcing us back into the spiral of self-awareness and ultimately self-pity. The spiral of pride, itself. Looking ahead, I think today is a good day to begin focusing on others and less on myself, offering words of encouragement when appropriate, and not simply to hear myself speak. My Nona once told me that we should always T.H.I.N.K. before we speak:

T - Is it true?
H - Is it helpful?
I - Is it inspiring?
N - Is it necessary?
K - Is it kind?

Couldn't have said it better myself.

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