Reflections

They Don’t Know: the Power of “Harmless” Words

February 26, 2017
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“It’s almost time to have another baby,” said the man at the tennis courts after learning the ages of my two living children. He couldn’t know the dagger that his seemingly innocent statement plunged into my heart. That it reminded me of the womb that should be filled with life, but was now empty; made the absence of those little kicks and a growing abdomen all the more stark. As I tried to force a smile I mentally said to myself, He doesn’t know, working hard to stamp down the sadness and hurt which instantly enveloped me.

Later that day as the scene continued to play out in my mind, I suddenly heard Christ’s words on the cross: Father, forgive them, the know not what they do (Luke 23:34). In a strange way I began thinking about my own words, wondering how often a thoughtless comment or statement of my own unknowingly wounded someone. Those times when I stated my opinion too strongly, without considering its effect on another; my seemingly innocuous question which opened up an old wound; the harmful observation which negatively changed someone’s perception of another.

With the dawn of the internet and social media we live in a world where freedom of speech has taken on a whole new meaning. Though we’ve always been able to express our thoughts and feelings freely in our daily interactions, widespread publicity used to be limited to the learned few. Now, however, any Tom, Dick, or Harry can share his thoughts, feelings, and opinions with the world. There have been many benefits to this new phenomenon: greater communication, a better understanding of the global world, a closer connection with loved one. This blog itself is a result of such technology and methods of communication. But I can’t help but wonder if perhaps we’ve lost something in the process; that wisdom to know when to speak and when to stay silent. 

Thanks to my own painful interaction at the tennis court, I’ve begun to ponder my own words and interactions lately. I think especially as women, we have a tendency to share far more than needs to, or should, be said. To “vent” at the expense of another person’s character; to wound by truths spoken without charity; to speak without divine guidance. I know at least that I have many, many times and sadly will again in the future.

Yet whether done intentionally or not, these words have lasting consequences. A word said cannot be undone. And although we are called to forgive, we cannot always forget the words said in anger or the thoughtless comment. They leave wounds behind, scarring our hearts and tainting our relationships. 

As we enter the more solemn and reflective phase of Lent, my prayer is to become more silent. To learn to hold my tongue and to truly reflect on what I should or shouldn’t said. To be more intentional with my words, rather than instantly sharing the thoughts that come to my mind. To be more prayerful in my writing too, so that I can truly become an instrument for the Lord. I hope you will pray for me in this journey and will hold me accountable through your comments and observations below.

God bless,

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  1. Thank you for being so transparent. I hope your post reminds people of the power of their words, even when they do not mean to cause harm. I also liked how you tied Jesus’s experience on the cross back into your post.

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