Last week I challenged you to smile at people. This was fairly easy for me to do since it is something I like to do, but I decided to notice the response of people when I caught their eyes and smiled at them. Almost 100% smiled back. For some, the response was clearly more than being courteous. They seemed to really enjoyed being smiled at. If you didn’t read last week’s article I hope you will do so. We need more people smiling than we have right now!
In that same vein I want to challenge you with the words from Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” These words of wisdom have been a bit more difficult for me to live out in my life than bringing more smiles into the world. I can be very sarcastic, and most sarcasm is directed at laughing or ridiculing others at their expense. I have hurt people through the years, and since I took time to memorize this scripture, and told God I wanted His help to change my ways, I have worked hard at saying things that build others up rather than tearing them down. (Note: If you are one of those people I have hurt get in touch with me. I want to apologize, and give you three compliments. See below).
You’ve probably heard the expression, “Sticks and stones will break my bones. But words will never hurt me?” Is that true? No! It’s not! Proverbs 12:18 says, “Reckless words pierce like a sword!” They hurt! Like a knife through the heart!”
I’ve always been a fan of the Carpenters music. I read a sad story about the sister of the duo, Karen. A critic once referred to her as “Richard’s chubby little sister,” and that comment demoralized her. She started taking drugs to lose weight, and struggled with bulimia and anorexia. It was probably a line that was actually meant as sarcastic humor targeted at a beautiful woman who the writer probably didn’t think could ever take offense.
Some of you know all too well how sarcastic, thoughtless comments can wound the soul, and tear up your life. For those who are carrying those wounds from painful comments made by parents, siblings, teachers, preachers, and others who are supposed to build you up I recommend the power of forgiveness. Ask God to come into your life, and help you to forgive those who have wounded you, and then ask God to heal the wounds, and set you free from the destructive life choices that have occurred because of those wounds. God’s love and forgiveness has the power to set us free, and heal us from all such wounds.
I am privileged to work with lots of teenagers. I love the way teenagers ask great questions about life, and I want them to have a safe place to ask those questions. Nothing can make a place more unsafe than sarcasm. For years I have a standing rule in all groups where I work with teenagers. If you believe you have been stung (been made fun of in a rude way, or sarcastically attacked), then you can object, and ask the person to give you three compliments, in public, for all to hear. And they have to be GOOD compliments! No cheap compliments about shoelaces or the like are allowed. The person who did the stinging can’t object. The person being stung is the authority on whether they have been stung or not.
There are so many wonderful lessons that come out of this. First, as the teenager receives three compliments they always smile with great joy that someone is noticing them in a positive way. Second, it changes the way the people in the group talk to each other. They are a lot more careful about the way they tease, and make jokes. Third, it opens up honest communication on most all topics important to teenagers because they know they are in a safe place to share their thoughts.
How good are you at building others up? Would memorizing this scripture help you to be better at it. Are you carrying wounds from the past around that are causing pain in your life today? What can you do to be free and healed of those wounds? Are you in any groups that could benefit from the “three compliments for every sting” rule?
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