Twice this week I have been on the receiving end of exceptionally rude or hurtful comments. In both cases, I was later told by friends that sometimes I am just too nice, that sometimes I should just tell people off. Part of me wants to agree, and yet part of me knows that just isn’t me. I know what it is to be hurt by words, so why would I intentionally inflict that on someone else?
But wait. Before you paint a noble picture, let me be real. I’m sure there are “too nice” people who are a lot nicer than me on the inside. Just because I choose not to speak in such situations does not make me squeaky clean – not by any stretch! I slip up, I say things I shouldn’t have, I hurt those I love. But, oh, how hard I try not to. I’ve always said that sensitivity is both my greatest gift and my greatest flaw.
Not speaking doesn’t make me weak. It sometimes takes more courage to keep my mouth shut than it would just to let the words fly. The words are right there and I have to bite them back.
Yet it also doesn’t make me strong. I may appear unruffled in the moment, but those who know me well know just how deep the wounds sometimes run. They see the tears and hear the frustration.
“The language we use to communicate with one another is like a knife. In the hands of a careful and skilled surgeon, a knife can work to do great good. But in the hands of a careless or ignorant person, a knife can cause great harm. Exactly as it is with our words.” (Source Unknown)
We have the right to free speech, yet that does not make speech free. Indeed, words can be very costly. They can cost us hope, peace, or confidence. They can rob us of opportunities. They can steal our relationships. On the other hand, they can bring inspiration, encouragement, and joy. They can build up. They can unite.
We are commanded, even, to use caution as we choose our words, because they are not without a price: “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.” (Matthew 12:36)
So tonight I find myself thinking upon the events of this week, knowing that while it isn’t pretty, it hurts, and my angry, wounded heart isn’t without blame, I would do it the same way all over again. In fact, I would hope to extend more grace, more love, more forgiveness than my flawed humanity managed to do.
My prayer tonight is that as I walk through the week ahead, I choose to build up rather than tear down, to support rather than criticize, to motivate rather than vent. My prayer for you, friends, is that the words that surround you this week be ones of great love and encouragement. For indeed, our words can change lives.