I was at the other end of the pasture on a hot afternoon, when a shrill voice rang out and echoed across the field. In the distance, I could see two people sitting in front of an open trunk of a car beside a school, but it was too far to make out clearly who they were or what was going on.
As I got closer, more yelling. A woman was quarrelling to her son about him mashing up his school shoes yet again. She had already bought him another pair and now she would have to get a new set – where did he expect her to find the money to buy new shoes etc. etc.
The track that leads to the hill that leads to the beach was about 20 yards away from them. As I approached, contemplating what to do – if to do something – say something, she turned to shout directly into the boy’s ear, “You need to look fuh work! You need to look fuh money!”
Even thinking about it now, I cringe. The seething anger that was spewing from her mouth into the ear of the boy who evidently was her son, was horrifying. A primary school child (probably 7 or 8 years old) needs to look for work – for money? How? Where? Doing what? F’real?
He didn’t say a word (how could he?), and a schoolmate watched and listened from a nearby wall. I stared at her for as long as my neck would allow – not an angry stare but a straight-in-the-eyes stare and said a silent prayer for her son.
Didn’t she consider what seeds she was planting in his mind and what kind of person she could be shaping him into?
Her face was slightly familiar. It was (and is) the woman who sells snacks outside that same school. As I made my way to the grassy track, she put her head in her hands and sighed in what seemed like frustration. There’s no way that boy’s ear wasn’t ringing for a while from how hard and close she had screamed at him.
Had he been a grown man, and not her son, a physical fight would have been the most unsurprising thing to happen next. Just in case of any misunderstandings here, I don’t like violence at all by any gender to any gender, whether spoken or acted out.
Ever heard of the term ‘fighting words’? Well, some words can trigger physical fights and although self-control is something we’re all meant to learn, it’s safe to say everybody hasn’t gotten that down-pat just yet. I think we all know this.
Then there was that couple in Queens Park that afternoon a group of us were on a rehearsal break. I was coaching a cast of actors in Voice for a musical, and just as we got outside the hall for some fresh air, the man started hollering at the woman in front of everybody, seconds before flinging away the food she’d evidently brought for him.
Words can be used as weapons that can have a huge impact on the well-being and thought life of others.
Has anyone ever wounded you with words? Have you ever hurt someone by what you said?
I’m pretty sure the reply to at least one of those questions – probably both – is yes…for all of us who are past the age of 2. Words don’t have to be yelled to be hurtful and sometimes we hurt others by what we say (or think), unintentionally. Sometimes we construct them to sting just a little, and they come out like muriatic acid.
Because we have a memory, and our mind is trained to record and store information and experiences, what we hear and say matters
That doesn’t mean that everything someone says has power over our lives (especially as believers) but it’s still good to be aware that words have weight.
Words can be used to lift up or put down. To encourage or discourage. To celebrate or criticize. To unify or to divide. To poison or to sweeten. To calm or to rail up.
Forgiveness is so important, and I don’t know about you but it’s only with God’s help that I can even contemplate forgiving some of the things that have been said and done. In theory, I know it’s necessary and an important step in healing, but the practical part of it dan be tough depending on the imprint of the words said or deeds done, and the closeness of the person on the to-forgive list.
But a lack of forgiveness can affect our thought life, physical health and prayer-life.
‘Cause I’m no expert in this area and as it turns out, still have some forgiving to do, here’s a podcast episode on the topic of forgiveness.
You see…I thought I was swift to forgive until a loud and hateful words were yelled and no amount of tears could turn down the volume…thought I was swift to forgive until betrayal raised its hideous head…and until a close friend lost her life in a burning house while she slept…
Maybe you’ve also put candle grease on some shattered parts of your heart and mind yet still found a few shards of glass that need to be removed and replaced with love. It’s a process.
We’ve all been through something, and if you think you haven’t, now’s a good time to armour up.
Regardless of what’s been said, what’s been done or what’s been observed, I want forgiveness to be my default – swiftly…honestly…and completely. It doesn’t matter if they deserve it or not. If we all got what we really deserve (by our past or present thoughts or actions alone), we wouldn’t be here.
What about you? Is there someone you need to start forgiving today? Feel free to share, and thanks so much for reading. This was a tough one to write, but worth the effort.
As we talk about eating healthier, cleaning up the environment and including sustainable energy to the global to-do list, let’s also remember that words are a part of our behaviour too. They can be like a sweet honeycomb, refreshing water or litter.