Repost: If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…

There may be some mamas that don’t drill this into their children but if there are, they don’t live south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Every time there was back and forth in the back seat or on the front porch and Mama overheard, we were told, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.”

Parents weren’t interested in policing every errant word out of the under 18 crowd’s mouth back in the day.

It was a simple (and effective!) rule:  If what you want to say does not meet the criteria of T.H.I.N. K. (true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, kind) then

Read the rest here:  If You Can’t Say Anything Nice….

Repost: Bridle Your Tongue

In this journey of loss I have been blessed and wounded by words.

I have been encouraged and disheartened by stray comments.  I’ve been thrown a lifeline and pushed under the raging waves of grief by friends, family and acquaintances who often had no clue they were doing either.

Our words matter. 

Our tongues have the power of life and death.

Read the rest here:  Bridle your Tongue

Hollow Words

We don’t mean to speak words that echo like a whistle in an empty auditorium.

But we do.

We open our mouths and pour out platitudes because that’s what’s been poured into us.

But we need to stop.  We need to listen.   

And then we need to respond to the heart that stands before us and not to our need to shut down and shut up and shut out another person’s pain.

compassion and stay with youIt’s hard to choose compassion.  It’s hard to lean in and listen well.  It’s hard to let our hearts get all tangled up with someone else’s when we could just walk away.

I am well aware that you have a life of your own full of drama, daily duties and demands.  I don’t want to drain you dry. 

Truly.

But I might need just a moment of your time and a bit of your courage to make it through my own darkness and despair.

One word.

One REAL word.

“I’m sorry.  That is awful.”

“I hate that you have this heavy burden.”

“How can I pray for you?”

“I don’t know what to say, but I want you to know I’m here and not going anywhere.”

 

fluent in silence

 

Speaking Truth

In the South, we tend to pussyfoot around hard truths because most of us grew up with the admonition, “Now just be nice!”

And while that makes for charming dinner table conversation, it makes for lousy long-term relationships.

Because we all know the longer you live with, work with and love another body, the more things that should be said but aren’t add up.

Pretty soon the pile is so big it obscures the love or fun or shared interests that should be holding hearts together and instead they drift apart.

I haven’t been all that good at following the southern tradition of code words and cute phrases that mask true intent. But I used to be guilty of it from time to time.

These past years of heartache and hardship have pretty much stripped all the veneer that was left off my tongue.

I doubt you will find a soul that would call me a silver-tongued devil.  They’re more likely to call me a brash something else.

But I have important things to say and I don’t want to waste time sugar-coating them.  I don’t want the meat of my message hidden inside a puff pastry of silly words.  I believe truth should be easy to swallow but not necessarily tasty.

Often the most efficacious medicine leaves a nasty aftertaste.

So I’m here to tell you:  don’t drown your important relationships in unsaid words, unshared feelings, unacknowledged wounds.  

All that does is guarantee distance grows between your hearts.  

If you let the distance become too vast, or the pile of unsaid truth get too high, you might just find you can’t reach that far or that high to reconnect.

It takes a bit of brave to say what’s important and uncomfortable. 

But it’s worth it.  

And it’s really the only way to authentic and lasting relationships.  

business-authenticity

It’s The Little Things

I am oh, so grateful for every single thing someone does to encourage my heart.  

And I try hard to pass it on.

Because, really, when you think about it, it’s the little things that either wear us down or build us up.

says something small but fits into the empty space in your heart

 

The daily drip of encouragement or criticism is what shapes our hearts most. 

The hardest stone can be worn away by water over time.  And the softest earth can be packed firm and resist any new seed when trod upon and squeezed dry by drought.

Words are not neutral.  They either build up or tear down.  

And so many hearts are holding onto hope by the thinnest thread.  

I want to be the person that helps build it into a lifeline, not the one who snaps it in two.  

all you have to do is care coffee cups

 

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice….

There may be some mamas that don’t drill this into their children but if there are, they don’t live south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Every time there was back and forth in the back seat or on the front porch and Mama overheard, we were told, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.”

Parents weren’t interested in policing every errant word out of the under 18 crowd’s mouth back in the day.

It was a simple (and effective!) rule:  If what you want to say does not meet the criteria of T.H.I.N. K. (true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, kind) then

just.

don’t.

say.

it.

THINK ACRONYM

I wish grown-ups would follow the same advice. 

Especially when it comes to offering up “helpful hints” to broken hearts.

In that instance it is rarely a case of another person aiming to be ugly or to hurt someone, but words are not neutral and they do hurt when tossed out carelessly by people who really just don’t understand another person’s pain.

So, for those who are tempted to fill empty spaces with empty words, may I help you apply the T.H.I.N.K acronym to the kinds of situations more likely to face us as adults?

T-Is it true?  You may think that giving out a Bible verse would automatically mean you were safe on this count.  Yes.  God’s Word is truth.  But how we use it and whether or not we understand the context can make a particular application of God’s Word UNTRUE.  And even if we get the context right, hammering a heart with a Bible verse may not be helpful.  You are not the Holy Spirit.  Let Him breathe truth gently into a wounded heart.

H-Is it helpful? This is tricky because sometimes what is helpful for one person is unhelpful for another.  I try to use this as my litmus test:  When have I ever been distraught and helped by someone pointing out the obvious? Or laying out a plan of action (when they don’t have access to the full picture)? Or reminding me that “all things work together for good” when right now all things really stink?  If there is any doubt about whether or not what I say will be helpful, I swallow my words.

I-Is it inspirational?  The word, “inspire” has roots in the the idea of breathing into someone or something.  Will my comment put wind in a person’s sails?  Will it breathe courage into his or her heart?  Will it lift them up and help them hold onto hope?  Is it the equivalent of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or am I instead sucking what little breath they have left out of their body?

N-Is it necessary?  This single criteria helps me hold my tongue so many times.  I might think of lots of things but is is necessary for me to speak them?  Am I warning someone of impending danger or am I just trying to make myself sound wise or insisting on making a point?  To be honest, very few things I have to say are necessary. Most of the time a hand on the shoulder, a hug, a smile, a friendly nod are the only thing someone really needs.

K-Is it kind?  The word kind comes from the same root as “kin”-which means family.  Is what I’m going to say something I’d want someone to say to me or my close family?  Am I treating (with my words) this person they way I want to be treated?  The Golden Rule, rules.

I can’t claim to always follow my own good advice.

But when I do, I find that I am building people up, not tearing them down.

There’s enough tearing down in the world.

I want to speak light and life.

a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle

Code Words and the Jesus Juke

In the South we have our ways.  Our ways of marginalizing folks who don’t quite fit in with who we think they should be or how we expect them to act.

Mostly we use code words.  Words that seem innocent enough to the uninitiated but pack a punch if you have inside information and know what they really mean.

Any sentence that begins, “Bless her heart….” will almost surely end with a tidbit of gossip that undermines a reputation.

Sometimes we switch it up (especially in church) with “I think we need to pray for…”.  Because we all know asking for prayer is holy, even if the situation isn’t and the person mentioned would just as soon her business stay private.

Social media has its own code words too.

Vague references to someone or something we don’t like or agree with usually begin with,  “Ugh!  I just don’t understand why….” followed by a litany of thinly veiled complaints.

But sometimes the code isn’t very complicated and it’s really easy for others to figure out precisely who or what you are talking about.

And it damages reputations and hurts feelings and you may sit back in  your chair, tablet or laptop in hand, thinking, “Not my problem.  I didn’t say WHO it was”.

But it IS your problem.

Even when you cloak your complaint or comment in biblical references or godly quotes, bottom line is you are accusing or mocking or undermining someone else.

My daughter calls it “Jesus juking”-tacking on a Bible verse before or after a remark in an attempt to shut down discussion or rebuttal.

Because if someone tries to disagree with YOU, it’s set up to make them look like they are disagreeing with Scripture or God Himself.

I don’t like these games people play.  I don’t like code words.  I don’t like tactics intended to make others feel small so I can feel larger.

Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. Sometimes social media forces my hand and I have to speak publicly on what I would rather discuss privately.

But that’s rare.

If I have a problem with someone, I try to take it directly to THEM.

And I hope they will do the same with me. ❤

did I offer peace