Category Archives: Wednesday Wisdom

“Those Words Stung Me”: How to Respond When Words Cut

When I was in eighth grade, I got into an argument with my sister as she was dropping me off at school. I don’t remember what the argument was about, but I was angry, and before I got out of her ’92 Lebaron, I screamed, “I hate you!” As the words came out, I realized I couldn’t take them back, but I tried. I immediately tried to cover them with, “I hate this! I hate that we fight all the time.”  Ever have an experience like that? Ever said something to someone, perhaps in anger or frustration or emotional/physical pain that you wish you could take back? You didn’t mean it or you shouldn’t have said it or you weren’t expecting it to get back to them. Remember that feeling?

Now stop for a moment. Have you ever been hurt by someone who said something out of anger, frustration, emotional/physical pain? Have you ever overheard someone say something about you that was betraying? Perhaps something got back to you that your friend never expected to get back to you. Maybe they have confessed that they said it, apologized, and explained that they really didn’t mean what they said.

How do you respond to them?  Hear these words of Solomon, the Preacher: “Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others,” (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22, ESV). Generally speaking, one ought to respond to those painful moments by not taking the words to heart. Why? We’ve all been there. We’ve all made the mistake, many times, of saying things about others that ought never have been said.  We’ve all spoken out of anger, frustration, hurt, etc. If we could take back those words, we would, but we can’t. So what can we do? We can give those who spoke against us the benefit of the doubt. Let’s not allow those words to sink into our souls and cause us deep pain. The pain of just hearing the words is shallow. That’s why we say things like, “those words stung,” or “those were cutting words.” But what we don’t want is for the stings and cuts to become infected and our souls to wind up with sepsis.

This also means that we don’t allow the words to cause us put ourselves “through the wringer.” We don’t go down the hole of “Is everything in my life a lie? What else do I not know about myself? Who else thinks this way about me?” That is then taking the words to heart when they were never meant to be taken to heart.  That isn’t to say that some words ought to lead us to self-examination, but generally speaking that isn’t the case.  If you aren’t sure which way to take the words, ask a trusted friend, pastor, or family member. Ask them if this is something that you need to examine or ignore. Don’t ask the person who won’t tell you the truth because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Ask the person who loves you enough to let you know if what has been said was something that needs to be worked on or if it was something someone said in haste or anger.

I asked my sister a few years ago about that day when I told her I hated her. She says she doesn’t remember it at all. I’m glad. It was a turning point for me; it helped me to get my anger better in check. Other moments have done the same.  But for her, I’m glad she did not take my words to heart.

Are there words in your life that you need to forget were ever uttered? Are there friends that need to be forgiven? None of us are innocent of speaking words that we ought never have spoken. May we allow those moments we’ve committed to determine how we respond when those moments come against us.

Act Like a King

No one actually knows who King Lemuel was.  Some say that he was King of Massa, a northern Arabian nation, but no one knows for sure.  However, what we do know is that his mother (the Queen Mother?) gave him some interesting and good advice.  It is advice that we all can take to heart, especially if we live in a democratic republic, as I do here in the U.S.A.

When people think of Proverbs 31, they tend to think of the “Proverbs 31 woman”.  Not me.  That’s an afterthought.  My thoughts go straight to verses 8 and 9.

“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy,” (ESV).

There are many in our nation–many in the world–who fit this description and we could absolutely exhaust ourselves on causes which often leads to virtue signaling (hey! look at me; I care about this and that and want the entire world to know even though in reality I’m not doing much).  This post isn’t about that at all.  It is however about making sure that we are not ignoring the plight of those who are poor, destitute, or without a voice.

There are more people out there like this than we may realize.  Often I will go on a tangent about something I believe to be an injustice. Abortion is one of those topics, but another is when a parent’s rights over their child, like Alfie Evans, are stripped away. These precious children have no voice, and the voices of Evans’s parents were being ignored. Why not speak up for their rights? I have the ability. I have a voice. I have a Twitter account and Facebook page; why not speak up?

But going beyond this, why not speak up when injustice is based upon race? When racism is known and seen, why would anyone keep their mouths closed? You see, we may not be king, but in the U.S.A. one does not need to be a king, but simply a citizen. Our rule is not based upon a monarchy, but upon the Constitution. That Constitution gives all an equal right to freedom of speech and to keep our statesmen and politicians accountable.  Our voice may be ignored, but that doesn’t dissolve us of the responsibility of speaking up.

It is no secret that the poor and needy are easily trampled upon. People take advantage of them constantly. As Christians we ought to speak up and defend their rights. One usually does not see a city or county declaring eminent domain upon the rich (I’m not saying it never happens, but it’s rare). It tends to happen upon the poor. And it is claimed that it is for the greater good, but it is not for the greater good of the person losing their home.  Casinos do not seem to ever be taken by the government, but little old widows’ home of 50 years are. Should a Christian ignore such a plight? Who’s going to listen to a little old widow? Not very many; but if Christians who believe in justice band together, their voices could and would be heard.

I have been studying Isaiah lately.  And I try to be careful not to equate the nation of Israel with the U.S., however, I do see a connection with the Church. Sadly, we can find that the way of Israel is followed by Christians.  Read carefully the scathing words of God to Israel in the first chapter of Isaiah.  God has just told the people that he abhors their sacrifices and their festivals and will not listen to their prayers.  Why? Because of their lack of care for justice.

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
seek justice,
    correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
    plead the widow’s cause.
Isaiah 1:16-17, ESV

Your princes are rebels
    and companions of thieves.
Everyone loves a bribe
    and runs after gifts.
They do not bring justice to the fatherless,
    and the widow’s cause does not come to them.
Isaiah 1:23, ESV

This was the condition of the city of Jerusalem–Zion!  The people ignored the plight of the poor, the destitute, the orphan, and the widow.  They said nothing and they did nothing.  And God saw their silence as complacency and complicity. Is the Church guilty of the same? I’d say it often is. We tend to “mind our own business,” rather than open our mouths for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute, and judge righteously, defending the rights of the poor and needy.

The Queen Mother wanted to make her son Lemuel a good king–a just king.  She tells him not to get distracted with promiscuous women, not to give himself to drinking and drunkenness, and to act with justice, sticking up for those who cannot stick up for themselves.  Imagine what kind of county and what kind of world we’d live in if Christians would act like this king.