"Reckless words pierce like a sword but the tongue of the wise brings healing." Proverbs 12:18
If you want to know where I am most likely to blow it in my relationships with others, especially my family, it's with my words. I certainly don't set out to be reckless with my words but it sure does happen. As I continue to share what works for our family regarding staying connected I feel it important to share how my words and the words of everyone in our family factor into our ability to connect.
Words are incredibly powerful. The Bible is replete with warnings, commands and Godly principles surrounding our tongues. From our mouths come both blessings and curses (James 3:10). No one can tame the tongue (James 3:8). Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Prov. 18:21). These verses along with many other are ones that I believe. I've studied and struggled with them but my conclusion is that my words have the ability to build up or tear down. Connection is about building up so if I am not aware of the impact my tongue has on my relationships then I am at risk for tearing down in one word what I have diligently been trying to build up.
For instance, say we are having a family night that starts out with dinner. (Make your own pizza night is always a good one!) We've made our pizza sat down to dinner then one of the girls spills their drink. And I lose it. I come down hard on her simply because of an accident. An accident I myself have done numerous times. The contradiction between the desire to connect and the atmosphere which is actually conducive to doing so are vast. The gap between how I reacted and the desire of my heart were hindered by one thing: my mouth. I know I am not alone in my struggle with words. All of us have lost it at one time or another and it is bound to happen again at some point. It is essential though, that we are aware that the way we communicate on a regular and recurring basis matters. If we want connected families we must work at having a language of connectivity. We must develop a positive word culture in our families.
Here are some practical tips on how to develop a more positive word culture in your family.
1. Figure out your "go-to" catch phrase or attitude. Most of us have one or two catch phrases or attitudes that we go to when we are at our fill. We've had enough, our nerves are shot and we are running on empty. I've heard a number of people with that catch phrase, (speaking to child:) "You are driving me crazy!" or saying the similar "They are driving me crazy!" to a friend within ear shot of the children. Take a minute to think about what this communicates to the child. In this moment a child hears, "You are a problem. You are the problem. I don't want to be with you. I don't love you." That may seem like over kill but truly, that is what a kid can and does take away from reckless words like that.
I have long been aware that I have lots of issues with words I have done my best to not have any catch phrase words. For the most part I don't speak those negative words. However, I employ the use of the all inclusive sigh. If I am not on top of it, this sigh communicates just as much as actually verbalizing the negative words. A sigh (eye roll, shoulder slump, etc) can communicate to a child that what you are doing now is more important than they are. That you don't enjoy them or that, once again, you don't love them. Becoming aware of what attitudes and words you use on a recurring basis and the way it registers with your child is the first step to developing a positive word culture.
2. Stop short and turn away from using that catch phrase or attitude. This is NOT an easy step. It requires diligence, practice, self-control and divine help. Also important to note, you WILL FAIL from time to time. While Christ has given us the power to walk in victory, we don't always tap into that victory and we suffer defeat. It is in the midst of defeat however that we can learn to trust and depend more fully on the Holy Spirit. Seeing our own weaknesses and incapability is a powerful motivation to cling to the cross of Christ even more. Preach the gospel to yourself daily and participate with the Holy Spirit to experience lasting change. I've had the opportunity to follow two separate friends as they journeyed to do just this as they fasted negative talk. Their awareness of the trap and their diligence to change was certainly an eye-opening experience for them and for me. Both would testify to the difficulty in breaking the habit but would say that God came through for them in their weakness. (Thanks Lorrie and Kathleen for blogging and sharing your experience!) This is a journey I am on perpetually and believe it is changing the legacy of my family.
3. Replace the negative with the positive. Becoming aware and understanding what our words do to those we love is a huge step. Learning to stop those words and behaviors is also a big deal. However if we stop there we are stopping short of actually changing the word culture of our family. Taking away a negative behavior still leaves a gap. That gap must be refilled with a positive action. Empty space is easily filled with other equally destructive habits so replace that bad with the good.
Have you ever seen the "Eat This, Not That" recipe books? The idea is that if you make small conscious choices to replace certain foods with other foods you will be healthier. I believe we could all learn to apply this to our communication and words.
If you're tempted to yell....sing or whisper instead. (I know my kids think I am nuts when I start singing!)
If you want to tell your children they are driving you crazy....take a few minutes to regain control of yourself. After all, YOU are the adult. Own your feelings rather than blame your children.
If you are ready to give "the sigh"....replace it with immediate, decisive and pleasant action. Don't give enough of a pause, respond appropriately.
And for those instances when you blow it, make it right. Humbly apologize. Own rather than excuse your hurtful words and do what you can to make amends. All of our families would be better off with more "I'm sorry"s and fewer excuses.
Developing a positive word culture is an extremely important part of connectivity. Work towards the goal of adopting more positive forms of communication and then pass that on to the rest of your family as well. And remember, we are in this thing together. I do not write from a place of perfection, just a place of process. I am just sharing my process with you. Blessings!