Have you ever opened your mouth and something came out that you wished (immediately) you could take back? Even worse, have you been on the receiving end of a comment that was hurtful? I recently was picking up my son at school when his teacher came over to the car. TJ had just plopped into the car and explained that after the Thanksgiving Feast, I was allowed to take him home (but I didn’t). I was trying to explain to him that I just didn’t know that I was able to take him home with me when his teacher approached the car. I rolled down my car window and said, “I am hearing a lot of whining in my car today about how I didn’t take TJ home with me.” His teacher responded, “You know, I was going to tease him about his mom just leaving him here, but I learned a lesson long ago about teasing TJ. After the first week of school when I was teasing him and I saw it hurt him, I made a mental note – no teasing TJ.” That is so true. TJ cannot stand to be teased. Whether it is in fun or being nasty, he just plain doesn’t like teasing. I started to think about that. Who does like teasing? It seems funny to the person who is the teaser, but it sure isn’t funny to the one being teased. I laugh when I am teased at, but deep down, I don’t really like it. Teasing lifts up one person while lowering the other. There is no way around it. Even though some people can brush it off easily with a smile or laugh, they still are hurt in a way by the comment.
I never had really thought of teasing in this way. My family loves to tease each other. Most of my friends tease too. I never considered how hurtful it might be until this day that TJ and his teacher gave me this epiphany. Words can be biting. Words can ruin my day. Words can take me from happy to hurt in a millisecond. The book of James sure explains the detriment of the tongue:
James 3:6-10 See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing.
James explains that the tongue is a fire. Just the spark of one hurtful word can cause a forest to be engulfed in flames. He goes on to explain that taming the tongue cannot be done without God. Centering ourselves around God daily will help us fight off the urge to tease or say hurtful words to others. We should be ashamed that we curse men with our tongue and at the same time bless our Father. It is hypocritical. Ouch. That is so true. How often do I gossip about people or say something rude and then profess my relationship with God? I am ashamed how many times this happens a week (even a day)! When I was campaigning for a local city council race (I go into more detail about this in my book, but for now you will just have to go with minimal details), I found that I thought out everything before I opened my mouth. The thought, “If I say this, I might offend them,” would go through my mind before every event. I didn’t want to step on any ones toes or offend a potential vote. I prayed before attending forums, and I asked God for guidance on what to say so that I wouldn’t be misunderstood. It was exhausting! I couldn’t believe how tired I was with all this thinking before I speak! It is sad that I had never practiced it before the campaign. It was absent from my everyday life, and I didn’t recognize the importance of it until I ran a campaign. Why don’t I pray before I speak? Just a quick prayer, “God give me the strength to hold back words that should not be spoken, and to speak Your Truth with a humble heart.” It all goes back to my favorite scripture from the book of John, “Increase God and Decrease me.” Most of the time that I say hurtful words from my mouth, I find it is because I am trying to increase myself and not God. Maybe I have nothing to say, so I just let the first thing I think blurt out of my mouth (that is never a good thing). Maybe it is because I think I am being helpful, but yet I am not. Maybe I am attempting so hard to form a bond with that person that I just try too hard. Maybe I am trying to make the crowd laugh, so I hurt someone I love. I don’t know what my reasoning is most of the time. I don’t even think about how it might hurt the other person. I certainly am not praying before I talk.
During this holiday season, as we start to make plans for work parties, family gatherings and friendly get-togethers; maybe we should start to pray about our words. Think about starting your day off with a brief prayer each morning, “God give me the strength to hold back words that should not be spoken, and to speak Your Truth with a humble heart.” Holidays can be stressful and hurtful. Just by changing the way you speak to others might change the stress to joy.
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. – Psalm 118:24