How many times were you told that as a child? Some of us were told over and over. Some of us only needed to be told once or twice.
Apparently some of us weren't told enough.
I was recently reminded of something that I taught my sons at a very early age: "Everything you say and do affects someone else." Think before you act. Or react.
It's very simple, really. Just ask yourself: how will my action, or reaction, affect someone? How will my words be received? Will they uplift someone? Will they inspire someone, causing encouragement and kindness? Or will they change someone's countenance from that of joy to that of pain and embarrassment?
It can happen in the blink of an eye. And the pain can have lasting effects.
Recently I heard someone make a blanket statement in front of a large group of people. The speaker was speaking in generalities and he talked about some character flaws that he had observed. Rather than give encouragement and offer a plan for change, he simply left the audience feeling confused and insulted. And discouraged.
You see, he didn't, I'm convinced, think before he spoke. He neglected to look at the Big Picture before he lashed out. He just said what was on his mind. And left a wake of hurt, discouragement, and resentment. The very thing that breeds- you guessed it- more bad behavior.
Because everything you say and do affects someone else.
So when your behavior and words are delivered in such a way as to tear down someone, the other person has to really struggle to avoid reacting in a like manner. It's easy to become defensive when we feel we are being attacked.
Why would you want to do that? Why set that example?
As a ministry leader I try very hard to be...cautious. I have the kind of face that can easily be misinterpreted. When I concentrate, I look sad. There is a picture of me in my high school yearbook that was taken when I was taking a test. In it I am concentrating. When the yearbooks were distributed I got so tired of people asking me why I was so sad in that picture-- I was actually happy because I was taking a test in a class I did very well in. You'd never know it from the photo, though. Even I thought I looked sad.
Does this look like the face of someone making an A on an exam?
(actually it's the face of someone totally annoyed that her picture is being taken while she's concentrating)
So I try to be very careful about how my looks can be perceived. In addition, I tend to speak in an abrupt tone. I was told not long ago that I "don't sound like I'm from southern Virginia." Too many trips to Manhattan? (no such thing!) So, knowing that I can be a little..."cutting" in my tone, I try very hard to soften my delivery. Those who know me well can read my tone and they understand that my remarks are not meant to be hurtful, but others may get the wrong idea and come away hurt or angered.
Have I always gotten it right? No, I haven't. Sometimes I've been misunderstood. Sometimes I have shown my true feelings and opinions. I'm human. But I do realize that we are not, as Christians, meant to cause hurt to anyone. Ever.
"Do everything in love." 1 Corinthians 16:14
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up"
1 Thessalonians 5:11a
Even as I am writing this blog I know that some will read it and think that I am talking about them or someone they know. So should I not express myself? Should I remain silent? I think not. This is, after all, America. I am free to express myself and, in fact, I am justified biblically. It is the job of the older women to speak wisdom and truth, and I am doing it in love, my dear sisters. It is my prayer that it is received well and that it will be meditated upon and will not be hurtful but it will be inspiring.
Because everything I say and do affects someone else.