Words…We think them. We speak them. We type them. We sing them. We write them. Sometimes a word stands alone, and sometimes it is combined with a series of other words. Whatever the case, our words have meaning. They can correct. They can encourage. They can belittle. They can destroy. They can praise, but all too often, they can hurt. Now, if you are a Believer, we are instructed in 1 Thessalonians to encourage one another and to build one another up. This isn’t a suggestion. It’s a command.
I grew up as the middle child in my family. My sister was the boss. Whatever she told me and my brother to do, we did it. My brother learned sooner than I that in order to make his place, he needed to find his voice. I was very mild-mannered as a young child and have always been a peacemaker and very tender-hearted. In middle school, I knew that if I continued to keep quiet, I would forever get ran over, so I began to speak up! I would take up for myself, for others, support topics vocally that were important to me, and I would also be quite vocal if I felt a situation was unjust or if I didn’t like something. In high school, I had discovered that I was a born leader. I had a voice, and it was being heard. I haven’t always used my voice for good. For so many years, I looked at it as being strong, a leader, that’s just the way God made me, and if someone didn’t like it, then they just couldn’t handle the truth. Until 18 months ago, it never dawned on me that my attempt at being brutally honest was just merely being brutal. Yes, tough love is sometimes needed, but tough love would include bringing light to someone’s strengths and encouraging them to continue with what they’re good at rather than tearing them down. So why do we feel the need to tear one another down? It’s because we are insecure in ourselves, and it takes the focus away from our own flaws.
Eighteen months ago, I began to study the book of James. I must say, James is the ancient day, male version of myself. He is straight to the point. He doesn’t cut corners. He’s my homeboy! Some of the things I read and studied were tough for me to swallow, because for so long, I had told myself that saying exactly what I was thinking, whether it was on point or misguided, was one of my attributes. I was wrong. I was convicted because for so long, I was tearing people down. Many times I was viewing others through jaded eyes. I was judgmental. I was hurtful. I didn’t really know what that felt like personally, because most of my life, I have not let what other people said or thought of me bother me. I did know that my words were being hurtful, and I prayed and asked God to change me. I wanted to build people up. I wanted to learn to let God fight for me instead of fighting for myself, and in the end, making a huge mess of things. It has been a daily struggle, but people are noticing. My dear friend, Amber, who is the kindest, most laid back person I know other than my husband, tells me now how proud she is of me and how much of a difference she can tell in my attitude and actions. My family has noticed the change. The thing is, once you choose to change how you react to people and how you view people, you also begin to feel for the first time. This summer, I sat through the most brutal, un-merited, completely false tongue lashing of my entire life. It was not tough love. It was not kind. It was hurtful, life-changing, and most of all, it attacked my calling in life which is my role as a wife and a mother. The old Jessica was brewing. Everything inside of me was telling me to let this person have it and to take up for myself, but that still small voice inside was quoting Exodus 14:14, “The Lord is fighting for you! So be still.” I sat there over an hour just listening, sobbing, and for the first time in my life, feeling how absolutely life-changing words can actually be. Today, most of what was said was gibberish, but one sentence that was said cut me to the core, and Satan has used that sentence everyday since to try and get me to believe what was said and to cause me to spiral into one of the darkest, saddest times of my life, but every morning, I call on God for strength, and He reminds me of Truth and who I am in Him. I was told, and I quote, “You are a terrible wife and mother!” Now, although I know that is absolutely a false accusation, it nearly destroyed me, because my sole purpose everyday is to glorify God in my job as a wife and mother. I find my joy in loving my husband and our boys. I prayed for 8 years for God to prepare me to be an amazing wife, and I prayed specifically that He would mold me into the Proverbs 31 woman, and there is not one attribute described in Proverbs 31, that I do not possess. After this attack, God took me back there, and He showed me that I possessed all of the qualities I had prayed for. He reminded me of all the times when I was a single mother, with absolutely no help, that I cared for a child, worked two jobs, and went to school full-time. He reminded me that any time my boys or my husband needs something, the first person they turn to is me. He reminded me that I had shown growth and character that day when rather than lashing out, I was quiet and said nothing. Now, some may say that because I sobbed that it showed weakness. No, it showed how hurtful words can be. God’s reminders and Words encouraged me, revealed Truth, and lifted me up. That’s exactly how we should treat one another.
Nearly a year after I had begun studying James, I began to notice all the hate that was posted on social media towards: Christians, homosexuals, republicans, democrats, race, etc…. There were very few days that someone I followed wasn’t posting something hateful, whether it was an E-card concerning a certain subject attempting to be funny, a story about boycotting a certain store or brand because their beliefs and standards are different from our own, or someone posting a photo stating that a they are going to continue to fly a flag regardless of the hurt and bondage that flag represents to a certain race. It was all too much, and it hurt me to see it all, especially when it came from Christians, who were doing it in the name of Jesus. I decided it was best to delete my account because it was temptation for me to comment and tell them just exactly what I thought about their post. That wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. I do know that Jesus would never say, “boycott this brand or this store because they support gay marriage.” No, He wouldn’t share their beliefs, but on the contrary, in 1 Corinthians 8, Paul is speaking of meat, but it’s the same principle when he tells the Christians in Corinth to continue to eat and drink the food and beverage that was sacrificed to idols, UNLESS it causes his brother to stumble. These people that are being hated against on social media are ALL God’s creation, and spewing hate will NEVER lead the lost to Christ, on the contrary, they will see what we as Christians post, and they will say, “why would I ever want to be like them.” The best way to be a witness is to love them. No, we don’t have to agree, and we shouldn’t, but we also shouldn’t hate. Well, what about the people spewing hate about Christianity, you may ask. They’re lost! They don’t know any better! How do you expect them to act???? Secondly, if you’ve read any of the Bible, you have seen time after time that we are to “count it all joy to be persecuted for Christ.” So quit trying to hold lost people to the same standards as Christians. At the same time, let’s do what we are commanded to do and love one another.
To conclude this vast topic of “Words,” I would just like to remind you of the song that we all learned in preschool. “Oh, be careful little mouth what you say. Oh, be careful little mouth what you say. For the Father up above is looking down in LOVE, so be careful little mouth what you say.” If someone is giving you the silent treatment, rather than viewing it as them being rude or dismissive, consider that they are choosing to refrain from hurting you with their words, because in some way or another, you have, in turn, hurt them. If we would all just focus more on encouraging one another and building each other up and allowing God to fight our battles for us, we would be much less likely to hurt others and destroy relationships. Know and believe that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. God didn’t create junk, and find your worth in Him, so that when others use their words to tear you apart and belittle, you will allow Him to fight for you, and your silence can be used as an example of how we are to react. We won’t always get it right, because we are flawed, but we certainly can try, and nothing bad has ever come from people trying to do what’s right. My grandfather’s wise words of advice were, “Do what’s right.” No truer words have ever been spoken. Thank you all for taking the time to read about my own struggles with my words and my daily attempt to do what’s right. Next week, I’m going to share more about my 8 years of praying to be a Proverbs 31 woman and just what exactly that checklist entails. I hope you all have an amazing, ENCOURAGING week!