Written By: Ashley Elliott
“She opens her mouth with wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (Proverbs 31:26)
I know that I’ve written a few posts on goals, but this right here is Goals! This is the kind of mother I aspire to be – and I would bet my children don’t always describe me in this way.
A few years ago, I took a parenting class where it was made clear to me that I fall into the mom-category of “lecturer.” I’m not often short on words and jump at the opportunity to over-talk about why a decision was either good or bad, (in other words, I can be opinionated!). And in the event I haven’t enjoyed ample opportunity to talk the ears off of my three girls, I also enjoy a good word game like scrabble, boggle, or crosswords. I have the opening my mouth part down, but I think the key to wisdom is not just knowing WHAT to say, but HOW to say it, and HOW much of it to say. It is just as important to understand restraint, as it is to gather knowledge. Our words and using restraint work together in a delicate balance that is all too often overlooked.
Have you ever tried to encourage, but ended up giving unsolicited advice? Have you ever tried to remind someone, but ended up nagging instead? Have you ever tried teaching, but it came out as scolding? Have you ever tried to help, but it turned into helicoptering? I would imagine that we can all relate to BOTH ends of the spectrum here: having overdone it with our words and feeling that someone overloaded on us.
There’s a comical YouTube video with over 19 million views titled “It’s Not About the Nail.” Depicting through humor the idea (or “law of the land” as stated in the description) that you don’t need to fix it, you just need to listen. *Here’s is the link to the short clip if you’re interested https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4EDhdAHrOg Person 1 is listening to Person 2 talk about how much her head hurts. Then the camera pans to view Person 2, and there’s a nail in her forehead. Person 1 thinks it’s pretty obvious why Person 2’s head is hurting, but instead of listening, he just wants to point out the problem and outline the solution. I think as a parent, this situation comes up weekly – if not daily! Our kids stumble into a problem, melt into a puddle, or boil over in frustration. And instead of pouring out a helping of empathy and listening, we open up our mouths and dump on them some “old-brown-owl” wisdom from our high perch. Words may not break bones, but wow, can they be POWERFUL. Proverbs 12:18 tells us that although the tongue of the wise can bring healing, “the words of the reckless can pierce like swords.”
My challenge as a parent is to step back and realize that more often than not, the natural consequence is the teaching moment, not the lecture I’m brewing up. Adults, not just children learn from trial and error; in fact, it’s not uncommon for some of our most important lessons to have stemmed from a mistake. Looking back into the situations mentioned above, situations where we were perhaps trying to encourage, remind, teach, or help, I wonder what different words we would have chosen if we were slower to speak. Did our words complete their intended task of encouraging, reminding, teaching, or helping? Or upon further examination, can we conclude that maybe the lesson would have been learned and the desired outcome would have been reached without our quickfire tongue?
No need to raise your hand and spill a confession, but are you aware of a time when you pierced someone with your words? I know I am guilty of this with my kids, my husband, family members, customer service agents… God’s instruction to us is to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Quick to listen. Slow to speak. Quick to listen. Slow to speak. We must guard our words and weigh them before we speak. Sounds so simple when the waters are calm, and the birds are chirping. But in moments of chaos, confusion, frustration, etc. out come the reckless fire of digs, nags, and demands, perhaps coated with sarcasm, attitude, and anger.
My prayer for us today is to filter our words through our hearts that are centered on Christ. May our mouths reflect the delicate balance of wisdom and kindness. Here are two scriptures from the book of Psalms to put to memory and recite in prayer:
“My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.” (Psalm 49:3)
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” (Psalm 119: 105)
Think anyone else in your household could benefit from these prayers? I know I’ll be sharing this reminder with my kids today, as well: Words are a big deal.
Written By: Ashley Elliott