Friday, March 6, 2015
“Never underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring to change a life, maybe yours.” — Teresa of Avila
First, to any of you who have husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, or other loved ones who work for the DMV (and read yesterday’s blog)—God Bless You and yours. Now, I once heard a psychologist say that we never ever really say anything we don’t mean to say. Maybe we didn’t mean to say it out loud, or in that setting, or in that tone, but a mother who loves her children never tells them she hates them or wishes them dead. At first, I thought this "never saying something you didn’t really mean" was a bunch of hooey. I heard it first about fifty years ago and in the intervening fifty years, I have changed my mind. Maybe sometimes you might say something you don’t really mean, but the vast majority of times when you and I open our mouths—what comes out is what we mean, and it frequently gets us into trouble, trouble of our own making. We have to be very careful about what we say because in spite of the “sticks and stones” saying, words can hurt and hurt a lot. Words alone have ended relationships of many years and estranged fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, and quite a few in-laws. Words can cause the deaths of others if uttered by those in authority to people who believe them. King Henry II once said, “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?” whereupon (don’t you love that word) three rather dense knights of his marched directly to the cathedral with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas a Becket was kneeling in prayer. These three knights brutally killed the Archbishop causing the first and only reigning King to apologize publicly and to accept public flogging to repent of his sins. Those words not only hurt, they set back the cause of Christianity for decades. We overdo it the other way, too. When we praise too often and too freely, our children think they can do no wrong, and that, too, is wrong because they can and will do wrong. We have to set good boundaries for all our loved ones, but we have to be careful which words we use to do it. Words with love, caring, sincerity, compassion, and authenticity all work wonders. I grew up with parents who never told me they loved me. The first time my father said it was on a birthday card to me when he was 86 years old. That’s a long time to wait to hear if your father loves you or not. He did, but neither he nor my mother knew how to say it, and not hearing it hurt. Maybe you know exactly when you are going to die, but I don’t, and the vast majority of people don’t either. So, maybe we should tell those we love that we do love them while we still can. Had my father died at 85, I would never have heard it. We need to let those we love, admire, respect, honor, think of with pride or tenderness know how we feel. I remember once that a couple in the choir in a church I was pastoring brought me a card they had received. It was from a younger couple in the church telling them that they had always been their role models for how to be a couple and how to be good parents. Reading those words changed the hearts of the two who received the card for the rest of their lives. I’ve never forgotten it and the card wasn’t even to me. If you care, say so. If you admire or respect or look up to someone, let them know. You will never know how much your few words can mean to someone who really needs to hear them. This is something you can now do by text (although I don’t recommend that), email, Facebook posts, lots and lots of ways. I used to go to the Hallmark card section if I needed to get one and read them until one made me cry. I bought that one, and it always worked quite well. Don’t wait too late to use words that you do mean to spread the love and blessings you have received. This is something you will never regret.