I’d stepped inside for just a moment, just long enough to grab the pot of macaroni and cheese off of the stove–when I heard the shouting on the patio. Ugly words flying like fiery arrows across the iron table, wounds splitting in the fray.
I grabbed his arm firm, and leaned in close enough–eye to eye. I hushed him, and sent him immediately in the house. His head hung and my heart beat wild in my chest.
His showing was hideous. But it hit me even harder that day because I’m still trying to get over another painful display of words that I witnessed, only that one wasn’t in my back yard–it was in my online neighborhood, and that’s still too close for comfort.
There’s something that happens online–in comment boxes, and on social media. I’ve seen it in blog posts and status updates, in 140 character tweets. Poor stewardship of words. You’ve seen it too. I’ve done it. It’s ugly and it hurts.
We justify our poor choice of language by claiming that we are merely “speaking the truth in love” but the truth is that, out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. And so these careless words–supposedly spoken out of love, are revealed for their true identity.
It can be easy in this online world to forget that attached to that tiny, motionless avatar, is a real living person, with feelings and a soul. Maybe they know Jesus. Maybe they don’t. Maybe they don’t know your brand of Jesus. Maybe they don’t share your politics. And with every difference, we find it a little easier to vomit stones in their direction, while we attempt to cover the mess under the blanket of Christian love.
Sisters, God has given us the gift (and it is a gift) of language, and like all of our gifts, we are called to use them wisely–for His glory. We are called to good stewardship of our words:
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
1 Peter 4:10 NIV
I’ve watched the body cut and rip at each other, attacking motives and character, when someone disagrees with our point of view. I have my own opinions about how I think things ought to be, and sometimes, I don’t see eye to eye with you.
Sometimes, all I have are ugly, sinful, hurtful words, and so I have to click away. I confess. I repent, I grieve my own sinful attitudes…
Because I have to choose–love or hate.
We don’t have to tear at the very fiber of those we disagree with, just because we disagree with them.
There’s a difference between civil dialogue and character assassination thinly disguised as discussion. <–Tweet this
Inside, I cornered my child by the stove. With a hand on his shoulder, I repeated his hurtful words to him, I asked him how he thought they sounded. His tears spilled and I fought hard to hold my own back.
“Your need to be right and have things your way, doesn’t trump the need to show love to her”.
He won’t look at me, and I get it. Shame weighs a lot. We bow our heads together and I hold him. I’m thinking about his sister half torn on that patio and my online sister half shredded by the ugly words and accusations hurled in the name of “love”.
Disagreement doesn’t come with permission to gnaw at the soul of another member of the body. We are called to be good stewards of our words.
As members of one body our speech ought to be loving and kind.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
“She’s your sister,” I told him. “You are to love her, to protect her, to build her up–not tear her down. If you cannot say something kind, walk away.”
What if we learned to walk away when we didn’t have anything nice to say? What if we set aside our need to be right, and have it our way, in order to better demonstrate love to others?
Maybe, we need to love not lecture.
Good stewardship of our language sometimes looks like holding our tongues.
Choosing our words carefully.
Extending some grace.
And asking for forgiveness when we’ve mishandles the gifts we’ve been given.