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 NIV)
Well, the time has come. We need to really clean up our act and focus hard on what words we let out of our mouths. By we, I mean Dan and me, especially as parents, in front of our children. One of them (you can guess which, since one is almost 4 and the other is almost 1) has learned how to use one of my “favorite” phrases for when I’m frustrated. Eep! I know that it’s taboo to admit in a church blog that I swear, but I’m fairly certain I’m not the only Creeksider who swears on occasion. In fact, it’s very possible that many of us have been doing it a lot more in the last year, with so much frustration, loneliness, and disappointment with The Pandemic That Never Seems To Have An End, Even When We Have An End In Sight.
I won’t say that I’ve always used “bad” words, but I’ve known that they hold a certain special power over others (and myself) from a very young age. While these words are usually used for things like shock value, to impress others in certain crowds, to tear people down, and many other things I can think of, it’s important to remember that they definitely do have a meaning.
I argue a lot that swearing just means I’m highly intelligent (THERE ARE STUDIES!!!), but at the end of the day, they still aren’t helpful to anyone but me. They are selfish words. Does it build someone up when you tell them they can go walk off a cliff? Does it help to say that you don’t care? Is it inclusive to say you don’t like others, especially to their faces? Hopefully we all have the same answers to these questions.
It’s not easy to change habits. In Hebrews 10:26-27, we are reminded that “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment.” If I keep on using my “favorite bad words” around my children, they’re going to continue using them, too. We can’t explain to our oldest just yet that using those words is bad. We also can’t wash his mouth out with soap or really discipline him in any manner about it. I created this situation by my own actions, and it’s up to me to clean myself up and lead by example. Which is going to be difficult, but worth it, because I really don’t want my kids to run around saying, “What the F*&%!” even when the timing is right. And certainly not in front of other people.
At the end of the day, I want to teach my children to be helpful and encourage others.
Lately, we’ve been watching a lot of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and our eldest is learning sympathy. He’ll hang on Dan’s arms at the dinner table, oblivious to the fact that his father’s name is literally Daniel, and repeat lines from the show, “I’m sorry Daniel! When you feel down, turn it around!”
Honestly, we really DO want to encourage him to say lines like that in earnest, and to keep on learning how to be a positive influence on the people around him. We’ve got a good kid, and all we need to do is dust ourselves off and try a little harder to be more encouraging of what he’s already trying to do.
While most people probably don’t have tiny humans around, maybe you have older ones, or you teach kids, or you have grandkids you still see (or will be seeing more of as soon as you have full vaccine efficacy!), or anyone really. In any case, there’s always someone you can build up. Sometimes it takes a negative action from someone else to remind you of bad habits you need to change in yourself. That’s how I’m taking this one. It’s time to step up and change.