I already felt frumpy, slightly pudgy, and entirely lacking in fashion.
“Your hair is just going to be like this. I mean, you should consider coloring the grey because it is just not attractive. And it doesn’t matter how I cut it, it is just going to stick out and be like this. I mean, I can try, but there is just so much I can do with it.”
I probably should have just said thanks and left at that point, however I had two kids getting haircuts at the same moment. And having a much better time of it, I might add. So, I let her continue and give me a pretty awful haircut. I’m still waiting for it to grow out so I can go somewhere else…to someone who might have a bit more compassionate view of this mop. I walked out feeling more frumpy, more inadequate.
The flippant words of this young hair stylist ruined my mood for the day. They weren’t necessarily meant to, and that actually amplifies their weight. There was no awareness that words so demeaning might impact me.
We have grown flippant with words which have great impact. A casual word which can change another’s mood for the whole day.
Sometimes, we are intentional with words, desiring to create chaos and pain. Reading through the comments section on so many news articles and FaceBook threads brings this to harsh light.
There is much to bring fear in these moments of life. There are many who feed on that fear and rejoice in spreading news with headlines inspired to capitalize on our emotions. Every election season seems to be marked by these dividing lines and comments slung back and forth between the factions. Those words are not flippant…they are carefully chosen for full impact.
Flippant or intentional, we contribute to the chaos, or we bring peace.
Our words have impact. They matter.
My flippant words about people I think less of, people I easily categorize and dismiss. I toss my words about, creating an image for my kids, creating a narrative. These people are beneath us. These people are not worth respecting.
The person who irritates me on the road: “Idiot.” The person who does not live up to my ‘standards’: “Can you believe they did that?” The person who sets their hopes on someone I disagree with: “How can anyone vote for that person?” “How can anyone think that way?” “Only an idiot would buy into that argument.”
The fear is speaking. Label the news, label the other people, label…whatever…and it makes it less fear-filled. Label something and we can toss it aside, we can disagree with it, we can disregard.
We are called to more, though.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:29-32
Only speak that which is helpful for building others up. Only speak that which may benefit those who listen.
Be kind and compassionate.
We sure could use some compassion and kindness in our communication.
What if we were not flippant, but we were intentional to bring kindness to our conversation. What if we truly strove to speak in a way that benefited those who were listening. Even those who were simply over-hearing. Like the kids in the house as they hear my ongoing commentary on life.
What if we spoke to bring beauty and peace, and if we could not bring that…we remained silent.
We can still challenge, we can still confront. Remember that other verse from Ephesians 4?
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. – Ephesians 4;15
Speaking the truth….in love.
Maybe some of that is simply recognizing that much of the hateful speech and much of the intent to hurt springs from fear. Maybe we are so wrapped up in the stories that legitimately rock our world, that we don’t know how else to respond but to shout and hit back with words. We end up striking one another, instead of striking the fear or the cause of fear. We end up isolating ourselves more and stirring the fear within us.
What if…we pause and try to find hope, try to find some wonder around us, and speak of that? What if we continue to speak truth, but we speak it in a way that spreads calm, spreads peace?
What if instead of igniting the fear, we remind ourselves and others that we belong to a deeper reality? What if we remind ourselves and others that we believe there is a God who is in the midst and is working. What if we give testimony of the moments we have seen His hand in the midst of the chaos, instead of continually repeating the hate and the chaos?
What if we realized those shouting the loudest speak from a place of pain and of fear, and we might have the answer for them? We might have the words that tell them of healing and of hope? I know it is easy to be caught up in the arguments and to dismiss those on the other side of the divide. It is far easier to not love…to simply remain aloof.
“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” – Bonhoeffer
Because to love means we will be impacted, and it will hurt.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis
Still, life is so much fuller when we love. When we love instead of label, there is a grace released.
We are in the midst of this broken world together, and yet we are able to bring a different perspective. To open other’s eyes to the wonder around us, and to bring an awareness of the deeper reality of God’s presence in our midst. We are able to bring hope.
We do not ignore the suffering, or the fear, or the chaos…we jump into the midst of it and watch as God moves in the midst.
We try, right? Today. In the comments on FaceBook and in what we share. In our words around the kitchen with the kids listening. In our conversations…we try. Try to speak words which benefit, words which heal, words which bring calm.
We might need to seek the wonder some before we engage the conversations. We might need to pause first before we jump online, remind ourselves that we are image bearers of a compassionate and loving God, a God who seeks to save.
We might need to take a breath before we speak and remember that we are all in the midst of this fragile life, and we are all impacted by the grief of children dying in war, of innocent people dying in moments of terror. We are all carrying the weight of the brokenness of this world, and we need to give one another grace in how that impacts us.
There is still wonder, though. Find some beauty today. Speak some peace. Pray for those who shout against you. Take a breath and turn off o the flow of news when it overwhelms you. Read something that brings you hope and fills you, so that you can speak that hope to others.
Maybe just telling someone they are beautiful, they are valuable…when they are feeling frumpy and inadequate…it could change everything for that person for that moment.
“My lovely shining fragile broken house is filled with flowers and founded on a rock.” – Madeleine Le’Engle