A friend pulled me aside the other day and from the look on her face, I knew something was wrong. Through clenched teeth, she nervously whispered that she had made a huge mistake at work and didn’t know what to do. She nervously bit her nails as she paced back and forth, berating herself over and over again. She knew she had to tell her boss about the error and wondered if she could make the walk to the office without throwing up. I hugged and reassured her, but also knew the dread that comes when we realize we have made a mistake that we really can’t fix. The weight of such anxiety can be crippling.
We spoke a half an hour later, and the pacing had settled. She interrupted her boss’s meeting with an urgent, “I really need to talk to you” and nervously explained what had happened. Without hesitation, her boss hugged her, told her that it wasn’t the end of the world, and that they would figure it out. I had the privilege of seeing how a graceful response can change someone’s entire demeanor even when the mistake can’t be fixed. She stood in front of me, still disappointed in herself, but the tears that blurred her vision were tears of relief. Grace was allowing her to breathe again.
Seeing this transformation challenged me to think about my own responses when people in my life make mistakes. Grace is not always my first response, and I have seen the crippling affects that my words can have when I lash out at someone I love.
One recent morning, I finished a long, beautiful run with a friend and hopped into my car, rushing to get home to shower before my daughter’s lacrosse game. I checked my phone and noticed I had three missed calls from my husband. He left the lacrosse bags in the back of my van and needed to be at the fields in five minutes. He knew the general vicinity of the trail where I was running, but wasn’t sure where I was parked; consequently he drove all around the area looking for my car. I rushed to call him, and he completely took responsibility for his error, blaming himself for the mistake. Instead of hearing his frustration with himself, I chose to pour a nice pile of salt on a fresh wound. I lectured him, not only for leaving the bag in my car, but also for not finding the trail, and then I spent time ranting about how late he and McKenzie would be for the game. It was really helpful and loving, and I am pretty sure it helped him to feel a lot better about himself as he prepared to coach his team that morning.
I read a quote on Ann Voskamp’s blog that says, “Only speak words that make souls stronger.” I believe it was taken from the NCV version of Ephesians 4:29:
“When you talk, do not say harmful things, but say what people need—words that will help others become stronger.“
It is important to humbly ask for forgiveness when our words wound those we love. To be honest, I am tired of being a pro at saying “I’m sorry.” I really want to become more of a pro at speaking words that give life and offer grace. This has always been difficult for me. Not because I don’t want to, but just because my first reaction is often one of blame or judgment.
I know we all make mistakes and often say things that we shouldn’t, but after watching my friend transform after receiving words of grace, it reminded me of how much a graceful response can release a person’s burden.
During the school year, mornings can be especially hectic at our house. I am often at my worst, yelling at the girls that we can’t be late and that they need to hurry. One of my daughters is just not a morning person and struggles to wake up and move quickly. One recent morning, we were already running late and as we walked out the door, she realized she had not gotten her lunch ready and still needed to get clothes together for athletics. While the other girls waited in the car, somehow, by God’s grace, I quietly just helped her prepare her lunch. As we ran around the kitchen, she looked at me and said, “Thanks for not yelling at me.” While my lack of words helped offer grace to my daughter, her words actually made my own soul stronger that morning. I didn’t yell and she noticed. I quickly hugged her, and we both felt more hopeful. Somehow being late that morning didn’t seem to matter as much.
How different life would be if we would really strive to say words that make souls stronger. We might even find that the words we receive back strengthen us as well. What words have a made a positive difference in your day or your life? I would love to hear your stories!