Sticks & Stones May Break Your Bones, but Words will – Always Hurt You.

10 minutes ago I was on the brink of throwing my computer off a cliff. Considering I live in Texas, this would’ve required way too much effort to find a cliff… But I was considering it.

It had already been a long day at work and here I was at home, trying to continue some work and the program I was using just stopped working. Have you ever had the pure joy of trying to stay calm when troubleshooting software, only to be given the run-around by a customer service rep, all the while having to remind yourself that it wouldn’t be right to kill the messenger? Talk about a test of grace.

Can I be honest? I had a scathing comment all typed out to leave on the program’s Facebook page. But my finger hovered over “post.” It was a classic devil/angel scenario:

Devil: C’mon, your complaint is completely justified. They deserve to feel bad for causing you such an inconvenience. It will make you feel so much better to blast some random person. They need to know they have issues.

Angel: What are you really going to accomplish? I bet people don’t even read those comments and if they do, I doubt they actually take them seriously. Do you want your name, your integrity, associated with such inconsiderate words?

Well, Angel won out. I reluctantly deleted every letter of my comment – taking my frustration out on my laptop keyboard instead.

But here’s the thing: Do you know how relieved I felt after I hit that last delete and closed the page?

If I had decided to post that comment, yes, I would have felt immediate relief – vengeance even. And no, I probably wouldn’t have received any major backlash. But 2 seconds later a wave of regret would’ve washed over me. Unnecessarily inflicting hurt and spreading negativity.

Man, how many times every day do I have this choice? Too many to count. And every time I choose to side with the devil on my shoulder instead of the angel, I lose an opportunity to be the light to which I say I aspire.

Words are important to me.

My mom would tell you that they are possibly too important to me… See: when I was little (like, 3…very little) and she would play dolls with me, I would tell her exactly what to say for the entire interaction and any variance from the script was simply unacceptable.

When I grew up, I went to college and worked tirelessly to graduate at the top of my class with a degree in no other than… communication.

I’m the girl who analyzes every conversation I have with someone, and more often than I would like to admit, even conversations that I didn’t have with someone (anybody hear me?). I have worked very hard, especially in the last few years through college and post-grad, to not expect people to communicate with me in exactly the way I think they should. Have I perfected that? Absolutely not. And I have a couple of ex’s who would surely back that up.

The thing is, words are just so important. They are the foundation of our understanding of each other’s lives – dreams, fears, feelings, thoughts… every aspect of our individual identities. My desire to understand – and be understood –  is enormous. And that’s ok. But the reality is, I place unfair expectations on this desire. Here’s why:

  1. I am not perfect. As hard as I may try to have the perfect response to every single situation, sometimes I’m going to come up short. I’m going to say the wrong thing at the wrong time and inadvertently or not, I’m going to hurt someone. Someone’s going to hurt me.

That’s it. World’s shortest list. But when it comes down to it, that’s really the only reason. At least, the only reason worth pointing out. My expectation of perfection from myself and everyone around me is simply unfair.

But here’s what even greater:

  1. God is perfect.

End of story.

He meets my inadequacy with grace (Rom. 3:23-24). My weakness is His power (2 Cor. 12:9). His mercy and grace are constant – no matter my flaw (He. 4:16). His mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:24).

I’m glad I didn’t post that comment. I’m thankful that the Angel on my shoulder won. I’m overjoyed that in one of today’s battles I chose to hold my tongue instead of allowing it to be a destructive flame (James 3:6). It may seem silly to some – after all it was just a social media post and it was to a massive company in a sea of other complaints, it wasn’t a direct bashing of some poor, innocent individual – but the war is won in the small battles.

What started out as a paper cut was redeemed by the joy that comes from the power of the pencil. And all the words in between? The words are important.

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