I’m a Kind Person… but Not Always

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

You may disagree with me, but this is one of the biggest, fattest lies we tell ourselves and others.

I wrote a post last year on the topic on the importance of being careful with our words and what Scripture has to say about it. This time, however, God has laid a bit of a different message on my heart.

•••

At work, I try to be a positive, uplifting force to those around me. I try to shake things off as they come and be a voice of calm in the chaos. Of course, this doesn’t always happen, but I try. I try to encourage and love on my peers at school. We’re all in the same boat, and sometimes we just need a positive word to make the day a little better. At my internship, I work with a grateful heart. Sometimes, though, I come home, and it all falls apart.

My cheerful, positive personality is genuine, but sometimes I get tired. Sometimes, when I get home after a long day, I find it much more difficult to find the silver lining, to realize that something is really not a big deal. Then my words become less kind. I can become harsh and insensitive, frustrated and annoyed. My husband doesn’t deserve that – he has long days, too!

Sometimes we are less kind with the people closest to us because we let our guard down, but in all honesty, they should be the people we are the kindest to. We should be encouraging, lifting up, and loving everyone we come into contact with with our words and actions – especially our families. If there is tension in our family life – it doesn’t matter if it’s your siblings, cousins, in-laws, parents, spouse, whoever – it’s going to affect our work life, our school life, and our hearts.

•••

Ironically, the Bible app’s verse of the day is Proverbs 15:1: “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare” (NLT).

This verse has been on my heart for some time – maybe not enough. Our words – and actions for that matter – really do impact people, especially those we love. We shouldn’t just say we love them, we should show them, and that includes speaking kindly to them even when we aren’t feeling our greatest. Everyone deserves to be treated kindly and with respect, regardless of how we feel at the moment. I know that if the words that come out of my mouth in a moment of frustration were said to me, I would be hurt, and that bothers me. So I am working on this. I am quick to catch myself and apologize if I get snappy or harsh. That doesn’t take away what I said, but it shows that I am trying, and I’ve realized that people notice when you try to change. Your words may still hurt them, but they see that you are a struggling, flesh-and-blood human, just like they are.

Have the strength to be kind when you don’t feel like it, because the bottom line is, we really should treat people how we want to be treated, because actions matter, words matter, and people matter. 

Photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez

Advertisements

Ten Seconds

I saw a post on Facebook a few days ago that said this:

Imagine this: If you had $86,400 in your account and someone stole $10 from you, would you be upset and throw all of the remaining $86,390 away in hopes of getting back at the person who took your $10? Or move on and live? Right, move on and live. See, we all have 86,400 seconds each day. Don’t let someone’s negative 10 seconds ruin the remaining 86,390. Don’t sweat the small stuff, life is bigger than that.

Ironically, I had been thinking about the same idea all week, but in a different way.

I can be quite critical of myself. If something embarrasses me or I think that I’ve done something wrong at work, for example, I have a tendency to hold onto the moment. Honestly, I am in no way effective in a situation if I’m strung up on something that happened ten minutes or four hours ago.

I do the same thing in social situations. I’m a sensitive person. I feel everything so deeply that when someone says something to me, I grab hold of it and take it as truth. I take things the wrong way or turn a small comment into a huge ordeal in my mind and then shut down. This makes social gatherings a source of anxiety for me a lot of the time. Sometimes I shut down before I get there in anticipation of something happening. And you know what? It’s not working for me anymore.

I have seriously got to learn to let things go. Like the post said, is ten seconds worth sacrificing the rest of my day? No, it’s really not. Whether it’s a mistake I make or a comment from someone else, it is not worth me shutting down. The truth is, they don’t shut me down, I shut myself down. I make a choice.

I’m ready to make a different choice.

The choice to let things go.

The choice to learn from mistakes and move on.

The choice to live in the moment.

Are you going to let ten seconds dictate the rest of your day?

Even If You Don’t

“I know You’re able and I know You can/
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand/
But even if You don’t/
My hope is You alone/
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt/
Would all go away if You’d just say the word/
But even if You don’t/
My hope is You alone”

-“Even If” by MercyMe

I find this song and the message in it so beautiful. As a believer, things happen that I don’t understand. It can be so frustrating sometimes when I know that God could do x, but it doesn’t happen. I think this is particularly the case when it comes to health. We know God can bring healing – there’s several accounts in the Bible of God’s healing power as well as several accounts of it happening today – but sometimes He doesn’t. Why? I don’t know. Isaiah 55:9 says, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.

•••

Even so, it can be so incredibly hard when you’re amidst a terrible situation, and the miracle you’re praying for doesn’t happen. It can make you fall on your knees and scream why until your throat is raw. It can make you doubt. It can make you angry. But can it also be well with your soul?

•••

Recently I was talking about how while I pray for miracles, I also pray for God’s will and for the strength for whatever happens to be well with my soul. I started thinking about it this way: When you see someone whose illness or injury has been healed, it inspires awe and praise of God. But have you ever heard a story about someone with a serious injury or disease that, though they haven’t been healed, they are one of the most faith-filled, joyous people you’ve ever heard of? I don’t know about you, but that inspires just as much awe and praise in my heart! It brings me to tears when I hear stories of people in terrible circumstances that can praise the Lord more than someone like me! How great is their faith!

•••

You bet I pray for miracles – but I also pray for strength and for God’s will. The things that happen on this Earth are bigger than me and the way that I would like things to happen. We live in a fallen world of sin, death, and disease. Bad things happen. Sometimes God steps in, but sometimes He doesn’t. I don’t know why, but all I can do is cling to the Rock that is higher than I, and as the song says, “[pray that You] give me the strength to be able to sing, ‘it is well with my soul'” and allow the miracles that don’t happen to strengthen my faith and my empathy towards others who are in similar situations. When the miracles come, I praise the Lord. When the miracles don’t come, I praise the Lord. It is well with my soul.

•••

Photo credit: Ben White

The Monster Inside Me

It starts sneaking it’s way in, and before long, you don’t really notice it anymore because it becomes the new normal. The sad thing is, you don’t even want it to be gone because it’s taken up a permanent residence inside of you; it’s a part of you. What you don’t realize, though, is that it’s squeezing the joy out of you life as it gets its sleazy little tentacles wrapped tighter and tighter around your heart.

Anger.

Are you surprised that that was what I was talking about? I would have been, probably. Throughout my life, anger has probably been one of the hardest things for me to overcome – especially since I didn’t know how it was affecting me. It has a snowball effect: the longer you let it go, the bigger it gets and the harder it gets to stop.

At some point I guess I either no longer noticed or no longer cared how the anger in my life was affecting me, because I no longer tried to keep it at bay. When something made me angry – even something minuscule that shouldn’t of bothered me – I just rolled with it. And the sneaky thing about anger is that it isn’t always obvious. I didn’t – always – lash out or express my anger in overt ways. Most of the time I just hid it and brewed about it secretly. Before I knew it, my little anger problem was breeding some ugly friends: cynicism and bitterness. Soon, they, too, were taking up permanent residence inside of me, robbing me of joy, love, and contentment.

I began seeing people only for what the did wrong or for how they were lacking, never for what they did right or the abundance of good things in them. I was quick to criticize (even if it was only in my head) and quite slow to praise. I thought, “Oh, sure, they did it right this time, but what about the other hundred times that they didn’t?” That kind of thinking kills your spirit, drains your compassion, and just plain hardens your heart.

I didn’t have an outlet; I just kept bottling up my anger and adding to my List of Things That People Do Wrong. It kept getting bigger and bigger and quite frankly I didn’t care; the problem was with them, not me.

I’m not sure when it happened – when I started noticing that my heart had all of these ugly tangles trying to squeeze every last bit of love out, leaving it shriveled up and dry – but I wasn’t okay with it.

I wasn’t okay with the fact that my husband expected me to tell him all the things he should have done or that he did do and should have done better. He should know that I appreciate him and all that he does – and he does a lot – but I wasn’t showing him that.

I didn’t want nearly every thought I had about my loved ones to be negative. I wanted to once again look through eyes of love, not the eyes of a critic.

So, I decided to change. The second half of 2 Corinthians 10:5 says, “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” I knew that my thoughts definitely weren’t falling into the “Obedient to Christ” category. So every time I was angered over something small or started criticizing someone or held on to bitterness, I rebuked the thought. I try to take a step back and pray, asking God for wisdom in the situation. I reflect and ask, “Is my criticism necessary? Is my anger justified?” And it’s not easy; it uses way more mental energy to change a thought than to just think it.

It can be hard and tiring and I fail sometimes, but my heart is no longer a dark, shriveled up thing, it’s filling with light and love and compassion again. I’d rather try hard and say to my husband, “Can we talk about this?” instead of yelling at him when we disagree – I’m sure he prefers that, too.

And, no, I don’t like painting this picture of myself. I don’t like saying, “See how awful I can be sometimes!” but the story ends with growth and healing. I also know that I am not the only one who has let the life-sucking monster that is anger make a home in my heart. I tell you this unflattering tale of myself so that if this is you, you might realize what anger is doing to you, or if you’ve realized it already, you can take heart and battle it.

Until next time, lovelies.

For Real

I mentioned in last week’s post that I began the book of Matthew.  The past few days I’ve been in the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7).  I’ve read it before, heard sermons on it before, but this time I noticed a common thing as I studied.

  • Jesus says that we know that God told Moses to tell the people not to murder and those who murder will be judged and punished.  He then goes on to say that those who are angry with their brother will be judged (chapter 5).
  • Jesus again says that we know that God forbade adultery; however, He says any man who lustfully looks at a woman has committed adultery in his heart (chapter 5).
  • Jesus says that we are to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors (chapter 5).
  • Jesus says that when we give, do not do so in front of other people where we will be praised, but to do it secretly in front of the Lord (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says not to pray in front of others as if it is a show or to ramble on, but to pray privately and concisely (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says to forgive or we will not be forgiven (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says that when we fast, do not make a spectacle of it, do it quietly (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says not to worry (chapter 6).
  • Jesus says not to judge others, because how we judge, we will be judged (chapter 7).
  • Jesus says that those who seek will find what they seek, that we should continue to ask for what we need (chapter 7).
  • Jesus says to treat others as we want to be treated (chapter 7).

Do you notice a common theme? All of these things have to do with our relationship with God (e.g. are we praying just so others will see us or do we have a true relationship with God?) and the spiritual condition of our hearts (e.g. yes, murdering is bad, yet God says so is harboring anger at someone).

If you’re like me, you look at this and think that this is impossible. When you’re having a terrible day it’s hard to treat someone how you want to be treated, when things are hard it’s difficult to trust God and not worry.  Yet these things I have listed (only some of the things that Jesus says in this sermon, there is plenty more!) give me hope.

I have hope in the fact that Jesus lived a sinless life.  Hebrews 4:15-16 in the Voice translation says, “For Jesus is not some high priest who has no sympathy for our weaknesses and flaws.  He has already been tested in every way that we are tested; but He emerged victorious without failing God.  So let us step boldly to the throne of grace, where we can find mercy and grace when we need it most.” Isn’t that amazing? Jesus knows these things are hard to do, yet we have the Spirit to guide us and the free-flowing grace of God at our fingertips (for more on this topic, check out a previous post: Victory in Jesus).

I also have hope because I know that my relationship with God is what’s important.  I don’t have to put up this charade that I have my life together so that other people will see.  I also know that when I have a real relationship God  I am filled with the Holy Spirit, and Galatians chapter 5 says that the Holy Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  When you have a real relationship with God these things will start to become a part of who you are, and when these things are a part of who you are, doing what God wants you to do instead of what you want to do becomes more natural.

We will always struggle, we are human, but when we take part in a real, intimate relationship with God and allow our hearts to change, we find it is easier to live like Jesus.

Check out the Sermon on the Mount for yourself if you haven’t before, or if you have, read it again.  The Word of God is alive and relevant.

Photo Credit: Cherry Laithang