Marilyn Hontz, author of Shame Lifter (March 2009), put up a great blog post today about words of shame and the power they can have over us.
Just reading Marilyn’s doctor’s office scenario made me hurt from the harsh words the receptionist said to her! It reminded me, though, that sometimes when I’m feeling annoyed or frustrated, I can speak to people (especially those closest to me) in such harsh tones. It’s like an emotional release of our own inner problems and tensions onto those around us. Whether or not those people instigated the anger or frustration, the tone of the words makes a huge difference in how they are received and how the other person reacts to our words.
A little over 10 days ago, my family’s 16-year-old pug, Jasmine, died. I remember how when Jasmine was younger (and still had her hearing), she would react to the tone of our voices. If we said “Oh, what a bad dog!” in a sweet, sing-songy voice, Jasmine would wag her tail and get excited. And if we yelled at her saying, “WHAT A GOOD DOG,” she would put her ears back and give us those scared, sad pug-dog eyes. To Jasmine, it wasn’t what we said, but how we said it.
Obviously this is different for human beings–we can comprehend the words people say as well as the way in which they say them. Although the words may be sweet, if they’re said in an indifferent or negative tone, they could become sarcasm. The book of James reminds us of how powerful the tongue can be!
As I think also of the day after Jasmine died, I still went to work, going about my day as if nothing was different even though inside I was hurting from the loss of my precious friend. Even a couple co-workers asked me how I was doing and if I had a good weekend, but I simply replied, “Good” and “Yes, my weekend was okay,” sharing only the good things that happened over the weekend (I didn’t want to bring up my dog’s death).
As I went about my day, I thought about how there are people walking around the office with hurt, and we just don’t realize all the pain they’re carrying because they don’t show it to the world. So as I think about the receptionist in Marilyn’s story and how Marilyn wonders if the woman could have been having a rough day or maybe struggles in her life, I’m becoming more aware that I need to be sensitive and attuned to the needs of people around me. While this is true in all aspects of life, I find it especially true for myself in my church youth group, where I’m a counselor. How can I recognize the needs of the individual teens I see twice a week? How can I encourage them in their walks with God and be a friend and mentor to them?
I want to be that kind of person, and I know I can only do it by the strength of my Heavenly Father. I’ll start first by making sure His Word and words are firmly planted in my own heart so I can share them with others.