This week our family practiced saying sorry to each other, a lot. Always so much fun. We had some words, attitudes, and tones flying around that stung and caused misunderstandings. Between my husband and me, between our children and us. Between siblings. Chalk it up to hormones (not just teenage ones) and stress and a lot of time together over spring break.
Words can be full of life and beauty and yet can cause deep pain. We can talk so sweetly to a little child in a stroller passing by and then bark at our own children two minutes later. We want to be good, but our words and tone often betray what is in our heart…impatience, annoyance, selfishness, control, pride. God knows this and speaks in his word of how our tongue often plays two roles:
"With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water." - James 3: 9-12
Why is this?
Because we are human and life often wears down our ability to respond kindly and with self-control in every situation.
So how do we tame this rogue tongue of ours? Especially when we use it in negative ways towards those we love the most?
Awareness. We often have feelings and stress and fatigue and hurt from the outside world that we carry around like an overstuffed trash bag. When someone close to us pushes on us or responds in a way that prickles our nerves we tend to dump the trash, all over them. We are trying to learn as a family the ability to be in tune to how we are feeling. When we are in touch with our stress or fatigue or sadness, it can help us and others to understand where our reactions are coming from. Often our words tumble out before we even realize we are stressed or tired, but if we can take a minute to reflect on where the intense emotion came from, then we can communicate with others and seek reconciliation.
This one example of how it played out in our family this week:
One of our children overreacted in anger towards me over a situation with our puppy. Our child’s emotion caught us off guard and the situation escalated. When we were able to discuss and resolve it later, we found out our child had had a very difficult day of rejection from friends. Upon hearing this we immediately moved from frustration to compassion towards her.
We coached our child on learning to be aware of when they are feeling sad or hurt and how that might come out sideways towards others. And if it does, to apologize and communicate the deeper issue going on at that time. This child took the coaching to heart and two other times last week apologized for a negative tone with an explanation of, “I’m sorry I spoke that way, I was really tired,” or, “I was stressed because I was running late.” If a teenager can learn awareness, I can too.
In an ideal world, we become so self-aware that we are continually in tune with our feelings and have the ability to control every reaction and word no matter what comes our way….I’m chuckling as I write that. Pretty impossible. But not completely.
I have found something that helps me again and again to control my tongue (most of the time) no matter how stressed or tired or weary I am feeling: I prepare my heart and mind before the day starts with spending time with God.I have learned that spending time with God in the morning and asking him for wisdom and self- control with my tongue that day can help so much. When I invite God into my day, he takes the wheel. He gives me strength and peace and perspective in each situation. I especially need to ask for help when I know my tongue might get me into trouble because of life’s stresses. Times for me that need extra preparation:
When I have a busy day
When there has already been conflict and my heart feels wounded
I have a presentation or am leading something that day (needing to be “on”)
When I am weary of life and going through a tough season
All of these situations can cause me to be sharp with others. But, spending crucial time with God in the morning helps prepares me for the day. I can ask Him for peace, self-control in my responses, and a gentle tone in my words no matter what comes my way that day. It is inevitable that we will mess up, and when we do a heartfelt sorry is often an instant and healing salve on the wounds we have created.
We must use sorry without hesitation and with reckless abandon in our relationships. How can you become more aware of what is behind the angry feelings or words? How do you prepare your heart and mind for your day? (we'd love to hear from you!)
Amy is a blogger and designer who lives in Broomfield, Colorado with her husband and three teenage children. Along with a love for traveling and date nights (even better when combined!), Amy enjoys writing about real life as a woman pursuing God in the midst of marriage, motherhood and work. You can read more from Amy about faith and design on her blog.