A couple of months ago, I was standing in the self-checkout line at Walmart watching as the lady in front of me bought a package of socks and a bottle of Mountain Dew. As she scanned the socks, they rang up a couple of dollars more than what she thought they were. She turned to the young girl managing the checkout area and began to scream at her, calling her all kinds of names, swearing at her and embarrassing her in front of everyone who was nearby. My heart sank as I stood there, amazed at what I was witnessing – people actually talk to others this way?
To this day, I can remember the look on the girl’s face as she stood there being yelled at for something that was not only not her fault, but was also an extremely easy and quick fix. As she walked up to change the price in the computer, the lady continued to yell at her about how ridiculous it was; she couldn’t “believe the ignorance”. I went up to the next available register, rang up my items, and as I left, I walked up to the girl and told her that she was doing a great job. She thanked me, but I couldn’t help but think about her heart; in just those few short moments, that one lady had (potentially) ruined her night. How many people had she made feel smaller than they were simply because she was careless with her words?
Over the past several months, I’ve been going through a season where I have felt the need to speak my mind and share my opinions whenever the opportunity arises. It's a control issue mixed with the desire to be heard. Though my intentions are always good, God’s been tenderly walking me through lesson after lesson on just how powerful my words are and how sweet they can be if I'm careful with them. If I’m being honest, He’s been challenging me to keep my mouth shut more; to be slower to speak and more thoughtful and intentional with what I choose to say. I can look back at moments growing up where I gossiped, bragged, and talked negatively about others. Not only did it occasionally hurt others, it made me feel bad, too. There are instances since I’ve been older that get brought up in my time with the Lord where I can physically feel the weight of the lesson in them. Has anyone else ever felt that? You know, those moments when something comes up and you sit there, sigh, and say, “Yep. Okay, God. I hear you”, because you just know – that’s God and He’s trying to tell me something.
He’s been teaching me about the power and weight of words in my own personal circumstances (of course, usually the hard way), and in witnessing how others treat those around them. He’s even stopped me in the middle of conversations to do a heart-check. “Would you say this about that person if they were sitting right next to you? Is what you’re saying life-giving to the people you’re talking to? Is it positive? Is it helpful? Is it necessary? Is it kind?”
Friends, please hear me when I say that I can totally relate to having a bad day. I want you to know that there’s nothing wrong with that. We all have them - we're human! I know I have said things I shouldn't have said to others out of hurt or frustration, and I try to keep that in mind for the lady with the socks; how had the rest of her day been leading up to that moment? What was she going through? But I have also been learning that we get to start each day with a choice between being kind to others in spite of how we are feeling, or running in with our heads down and treating people as less than they are; less than they deserve. For me, it comes down to one thing: I don’t ever want to cause hurts simply because I wasn’t careful, intentional and thoughtful with my words. I don't ever want to lead someone down the wrong path or influence them in a negative way because I chose to be careless with what I said and how I said it.
I don’t ever want to be known as anything but kind.
Proverbs 16:24 says "Kind words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing for the body." Kind words are gooey and sticky and sweet. They cling to our hearts and give us strength and boldness. They encourage us to wake up every morning and be better than we were yesterday. Our words are a purposeful gift – they were given to us for a reason. They have the ability to uplift and empower (to give life), but they also have the ability to hurt and tear down (to take life). Words that may not mean much to you can stick with someone else for a lifetime. Be careful with them; choose to use them for good. The world needs more of that.
“Words can launch us… God made it so that ordinary people like you and me can launch each other… I believe it’s true that the right people can say words that can change everything. And guess what? We’re the ones who can say them.” – Bob Goff, Love Does