Last week I was listening to the “More Than Small Talk” podcast and one of the hosts, Suzy Eller, said something that I cannot get out of my head. Which is a really good thing. In fact, I had to stop drying my hair, rewind it, and go write it in my journal. She was sharing about how this past year she had made some blunders with decisions and the people around her. As she had been praying about it, she has started running her words through this filter:
“How would it make my heart feel if someone said to me what I’m about to say?”
I know! Convicting, right?? This thought stayed in my mind as I went throughout the weekend. I asked God to show me areas where I speak in a way that might make someone close down instead of building them up. And I was disappointed to discover that what He brought to my mind were my words with my immediate family – ugh!
Specifically the biggest struggle seems to be with my adult children. I regularly step into that “mom role” in my words that would be acceptable when they were much younger but is no longer my place.
Suggestions to get a haircut or about their personal hygiene; eating healthier and taking better care of their bodies; or the need for different friendships. Questions on how they are spending their time or if they are putting in the effort to chase their dreams. Giving unsolicited parenting advice or about life in general.
I wrote a quote from Tauren Wells in my Reading Journal from a devotional I read earlier this year. He said, “… an unguarded strength is a double weakness. Nothing can get you into more trouble than your strengths.” I mean … surely I'm just looking out for their best interests that I can see from my many years’ perspective? I’m sure I’m just being helpful and they want to hear what I have to say … after all, I have a lot of really good advice!
Even when a little warning bell goes off in my head, I have continued to “make suggestions.” For the most part, my children have not pushed back … but I wonder about their hearts? Do they inwardly roll their eyes and think, “That’s just mom!” or “There she goes again!” Are my words causing them to inwardly cringe? Are my motherly suggestions (in my mind), words Jesus would speak to me? He communicates with us all the time but in a way our hearts can hear.
“Let everything you say be good and helpful,
so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”
This verse has always resonated with me, and because my nature is more of a listener than a talker, my words have not caused me too much trouble over the years. But I believe all of us can struggle more with our words within our families – those that we love most and are most comfortable with. I love how Ann Voskamp put this, “When you let other people just be – and don’t try to change even one of their heartbeats – you become a safe place for your people.”
Having the filter of this question, “How would it make my heart feel if someone said to me what I’m about to say?” has the power to transform my relationships with those I love most. I want to be a safe place for my children and for all my relationships! I am hopeful that by writing about it, it will be deeply rooted in my mind so it will come to the forefront quickly before I speak. As I’m sure you do, I never intentionally want my words to tear down my children or anyone else, but only what will encourage them in this life where they are already being bombarded with negativity.
When I am talking with a close friend or am in a mentoring role with someone, I regularly ask for permission to share some thoughts or observations with them. If they agree, I have been invited to talk freely, yet respectfully. Why have I not implemented this with my children? Can’t really say … other than I haven’t thought of it. So that is my new aspiration. I will never quit being their mom, but I sure don't want to hurt their hearts with my words either. I am praying to find that balance.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Is it a struggle for you as well? How are you guarding your mouth, especially with those closest to you? I would love to continue to learn from you.