For those of you that may not know, I have a brother in law named Louis, and he is married to my sister, Bethany. About 2 months ago, Louis’ precious little sister, Edy, went to be in the presence of her Savior.
On the day of her funeral, a steady stream of people slowly made their way around the room to express their sympathies to Louis’ family. A kind lady and her husband approached me, and the lady introduced me to her husband as “Louis’ husband.” As soon as she said this, the three of us exchanged strange glances as we individually processed those words: Louis’ husband. After a painfully long moment of silence, I blurted out, “actually, Louis doesn’t have a husband, he has a wife. But I’m not his wife. My sister Bethany is his wife. I am Bethany’s sister. You feel me?” The looks on their faces, my comment, and the moments to follow were all pretty uncomfortable.
I was glad to escape that scenario.
Later, a long strand of vehicles made their way to the burial site. As I got out of my car, there was a couple in front of me also getting out of theirs. “Hi Hannah (emphasis on the Hannah),” said the lady in front of me. I smiled. “Oh good! You are Hannah! I practiced that the whole way here!” Thinking that this lady was one of the many that confuses me with my sister, I wanted to console her. Given that attempts at humor are my go-to awkwardness alleviant, I reply, “Don’t worry! People confuse me with Bethany all. the. time. In fact, I respond to either. Oh, and get this: some lady (emphasis on the “some lady”) called me Louis’ husband earlier! HA! Doesn’t get much worse than that, huh?” The lady tucked her head between her shoulders and stammered, “that was me…”
I then made a beeline for some unknown point in the distance opposite the direction this woman and her husband were walking.
The moral of the story is: I have absolutely not a single ounce of social grace and I am sorry. But the other moral is that words are so very important, much more so than I think we often realize.
You see, at the time this situation occurred, I couldn’t fathom a more uncomfortable position than the one I was in. I had totally fumbled an opportunity to make polite conversation, and instead, I really embarrassed this sweet lady, as well as myself. But now, looking back, I do know of a more uncomfortable position than mine: hers.
Recently, I’ve been on the receiving end of some not so kind words, and I know you can relate. In this world, we’re all bound to fall victim to the bitter sting of words spoken in haste, lacking forethought and prudence. I am sure we all know the damaging effects of gossip, and most of us carry around a word or phrase that has negatively impacted our self-worth, and no matter how many times we try to forget them, the words have stuck around through the years.
Proverbs 18:21 tells us that “life and death are in the power of the tongue,” and that’s some pretty serious business. Words are weighty, and they carry with them the capacity to change and shape a person for better or for worse. The ability to convey a message through words is a privilege, and I think that is something we too easily take for granted. In the near 16,000 words I speak in a day, I can tell you that very few of them are well thought through before they are spoken. I feel, and then I respond, and so the cycle goes. Somewhere along the way I’ve forgotten the wisdom that should be behind the words.
Friends, I am the absolute worst abuser of words. One minute I am resolving to speak softly to my siblings, and the next I am tearing them down or calling them names. **I kid you not, as I type this, it is 12:47 am and I can hear my two younger sisters arguing because one won’t share toothpaste with the other. I just tossed my computer, got up, grabbed some toothpaste, chased down the crying sister and squirted her with it, while making it very clear that “it is late and you two are morons would you please shut up?”** My heart desires to speak only kind things about other people, but nothing prohibits me from pointing out a physical flaw in order to get a few laughs. I am constantly saying things only to think later how ashamed I would be if the person they were directed towards were to hear them. This is something the Lord has been brutally beating into my heart lately, and it’s a lesson He saw fit to teach me from the other side of the open trap.
Recently, some not so kind words about me have been brought to light, and they’ve left me feeling dejected and trampled. Somewhere along the way, I’ve allowed these words to define me; I’ve allowed them to have a power over me. I think a lot of us tend to do this. When you read and hear words that drag you through the mud, it’s easy to feel defined by them, but God establishes for us a different standard by which our worth is measured – His – and it’s a standard of grace.
When gossip meets slander, the truth is easily blurred, but there are four words that have always brought me comfort since I was a little girl: You are for me. These words come straight out of Psalm 56:9 – “this I know that God is for me,” and are the title of my favorite song by my favorite artist, Kari Jobe. If you have the chance, I’d highly recommend giving this song a listen, as it has brought me back to an eternal perspective time and time again. These four words remind me that with God on my side, I can face armies. There is no battle too great to fight when the King of Kings is on my side. Harsh and hurtful words lose their grip in light of the truth that He is for us. These are words that I so wholeheartedly believe that I had them tattooed to my wrist as a forever reminder.
Over the years, these words have sunk deep into the places that lies have invaded. He is for me, and He is enough. I want to remind you of that same truth today, whatever you face – whatever words, whatever battles, whatever trials – He is for you. There is no person this side of heaven that can ever diminish your beauty, purpose and your worth in the eyes of the One that made you.
I can’t write a post that adequately encompasses the gamut of the importance of our words, but I can leave you with this – a desperate plea for myself and for you – to choose carefully the words you speak. You never know what someone may be carrying, what they might be walking through, so opt to speak the life giving words. Share a smile instead of a judgmental stare. Let kindness outweigh your assumptions, and when your assumptions get in the way, assume the best before assuming the worst. Your voice is important, but never compromise your character in an attempt to be heard. The right words can do a lifetime of good, so spend your time speaking those, because the wrong ones can do irreparable damage and leave scars and wound deep.
Jesus says in Luke chapter 6 that it is out of the overflow of our hearts that our mouths speak. Being that our “hearts are deceitful above all else,” we must seek wisdom and refinement daily. So my prayer for myself and for you today is that He would purify our hearts and make us more like Him. That we would recognize that our words – the verbal and written and unspoken ones alike – are all impactful and significant in more ways than we know. May we use our words to encourage, to build up, and point others to Him.
Happy Friday, friends!