We’ve all done it. We’re all guilty. None of us are innocent.
We’ve shared someone else’s private business with others.
We’ve shared our own private business with the wrong people.
We’ve said the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person.
We either carry tremendous remorse and have to deal with consequences or we justify, defend, or remove ourselves from any responsibility in the situation as if we can wash oil-based paint off our hands with water.
It all started with words. Our words.
And a choice in how we used our words.
Proverbs 18:21 Life and death are in the power of the tongue.
The wrong words enable destructive behavior, place bandaids on situations to make everything ‘feel okay’ when it’s really not, and can be a form of bloodletting for feelings of bitterness, unforgiveness, competition, pride, or other diseases of the heart.
The wrong words can break relationships, shatter hearts, cause doubt, plant lies, and usher in Winter of the soul. The wrong words can bring down leaders, crash organizations, or drive fear into the hearts of people groups, communities, or nations.
What’s mind-bending about this is that this usage of words begins in preschool. If you’ve ever known or had a preschooler, you know this is true.
I saw Molly touch a slimy green frog at recess. Let’s not be friends with Molly. She’s gross. Molly is friends with Jose so Jose is gross too. He probably touches slimy frogs and we aren’t friends with people who like frogs.
Truth: Molly picked up a green leaf from the playground to give to her Dad after school.
We see what we want to. We fail to ask questions. We listen to others without weighing out the situation for ourselves.
‘Cancel culture’ starts young. I wish I could say that this childish behavior ends at some age, but it doesn’t. I’ve met a lot of people who behave like children but live in grown-up bodies.
While it can be refreshing to be around people who are candidly honest, we can easily use this as a blanket excuse to mindlessly babble or verbally vomit all over the people around us.
Unfortunately, I’ve witnessed too many times where the person with the loudest opinion is the one who leads the dialogue when the loudest opinion may actually be the most base, ungrounded, and illogical opinion in the room. I wish I could say that I’m innocent of ever having done this in the past or that I won’t ever do this again in the future but both would be lies.
Another area we tend to practice a lack of discretion is when we are nervous, intimidated, trying to prove ourselves, hiding from pain, confused, offended, seeking someone’s praise or affirmation, or Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. (H.A.L.T.). Many of these situations have to do with feelings, not necessarily the truth of a situation which means we need to do a bit of soul-searching if we don’t wish to repeat our blunders. Or we simply need to zip our lips, step away from the situation, eat a sandwich, or take a nap. How we represent ourselves, our faith, and our family is worth the TLC.
I’ve been blessed with a number of relationships where words are plenty but are the right words. The right words can heal hearts, mend relationships, bring freedom, address brokenness, bring hope, usher in love, and move Heaven.
The right words aren’t necessarily perfect words. The right words can be messy and raw, humble and heartfelt. The intent behind the right words is to mend, encourage, restore, redeem, provoke deeper consideration, and challenge broken thinking.
The right words are often so much harder to employ than the wrong words but both are reflections of what is happening within our hearts, minds, and souls.
We get to choose how we use our words and the impact we want them to have, good or bad. We are all in progress along the way and need to practice 1) compassion with ourselves for past mistakes and make amends for whatever situation calls for it, and 2), practice compassion for others who have got it wrong.
A few other tidbits I’ve painfully picked up along the way:
Choose your sharing wisely. People who talk about other people will talk about you. “A gossip betrays a confidence, so avoid a man who talks too much.” (Proverbs 11:13)
Walk away from conversations when private information is shared about someone else.
Avoid sharing information with people who drink a lot. One extra drink makes your business, everybody’s business.
Avoid that extra drink so you don’t break trust with the people you love.
Practice forgiving quickly and developing thicker skin. People’s words (intentional or unintentional) will hurt you just as your words will hurt others. Seek restoration, and forgive as you want to be forgiven.
What you share with someone will 98% of the time be shared with that person’s partner so consider the partner and if they are a person of discretion before you divulge really private information.
The words we utter, matter and this should give us cause to pause.