My mother was from the “old school.” It was apparent she loved her family, but ran a tight ship and an equally tight household. Growing up I learned “if you mess it up, clean it up,” “make up your bed and clean your room before coming to the breakfast table,” “always say please and thank you,” “finish what you start,” “show respect to your elders,” and the top of the list – the one I heard most often – “if you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all.” There are a lot of people these days that could learn a thing or two from my mother.
Words matter, whether they be spoken or written, and are increasingly being used either to tear another person down but can just as easily build someone up. I’m reminded of a friend who I will call Tina. I knew her from church. We were involved with church activities, but I didn’t really “know” Tina. One day she confided in me that she had a new job and someone there had been flirting with her. She was flattered that someone would find her attractive. She said her husband (whom I’ll call Ken) was verbally and physically abusive. I was shocked when she said that because that was not the Ken I knew. When she asked me what I thought about what she said, I told her in my opinion she needs to run, not walk, away from the “flirt” as fast as possible, and to seek counseling if what she says is true about her husband. If she continues down the path she’s headed, her family will surely self-destruct.
Time passed and we moved to another church, but I heard through friends that Ken and Tina had divorced, with Ken keeping the teenage children. I heard the divorce was difficult with each parent trying to force the kids to take sides. That was over 20 years ago.
Most recently I learned that Tina had married several times thereafter always looking for someone to love her, but each ending within a few months later. Ken withdrew from life becoming bitter and resentful, always denying the accusations against him. He began pushing everyone away and lives estranged from his own children. In the end, Tina and Ken destroyed their marriage and filled their children with their own resentments and unforgiveness.
You probably know some Tina and Ken stories. I remind myself constantly there are two sides to every story in a relationship and the truth will (always) be found somewhere in the middle. Seeking the truth instead of slander and gossip is always the better path.
We live in a culture where anything goes and accusations run wild. I’m offering my mother’s wise advice about the words we speak to anyone who wants it – free of charge. Our words matter.
Psalm 19:14 “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”