Growing up, I was taught that your reaction dictates the course of your desired outcome.
I was raised by two loving, amazing, but very headstrong people… and they amazed me by how resilient they were as two prominent members in the community I grew up in. I come from a small town – I’m talking can’t get away with anything for very long (trust me, I know from personal experience), know everyone and their mother kind of small town. According to Google, as of 2017, there were 2,498 people living in Fredericktown, Ohio – yeah, I wasn’t kidding. I’m not sure if you come from a small farm town, but if you do, you know that sports are pretty much equivalent to breathing air – they’re absolutely essential and not to be trifled with. My father was the head coach of the high school boys varsity basketball team for many years while I was growing up. You can just imagine the opinions thrown his way on a consistent basis about how a small town boys basketball team should be coached, and how the program should be ran.
As a little girl, I absolutely loved that he was the head coach. It meant getting to sit in on practices, and my brother sitting on the bench as a little boy, feeling so special to be apart of something he felt was so much bigger than himself. My dad, a hot-tempered fighter like myself, would fight for his team and win the same way a Warrior rides into battle – it was truly epic to watch how he conducted himself on the court. Never perfect, but so tough, so strong, and always a winner in my book. Amidst the awesomeness of him leading his teams, as I look back on those days, do you want to know what sticks out the most in my mind? The nasty words and opinions of others that reacted out of their anger towards a man that tried his damn hardest to lead a small-town boys basketball program to the best of his own ability. A man, that outside of that high school gym, had a family and a little girl that heard every single disrespectful comment made about her dad – the man she looks up to and has so much love for. His adversaries never got to see the wounds their words left behind when he took off his armor at night, away from the crowds and cheering fans. If I allow it, the harsh words cloud the fun memories of pizza at home after a victory or the gracious way he carried himself after a hard-fought loss. It even has the power, if given, to fade the memories of the people that supported and looked up to my dad – the kind words get lost in a sea of others’ bitterness over a small-town basketball program.
Isn’t it a little scary how one person’s hurtful words can alter the emotion of a memory? Can completely change the course of the day? The power that our reactions and words hold have been weighing heavily on my heart this past week, and I hope that this will serve as a good reminder to us all to keep our hearts, and our words, in check.
You may be wondering what spurred on my above rant, or maybe you weren’t! Either way, I’m going to tell you…
My husband and I went to Nashville, Tennessee this past weekend with my brother, his girlfriend and a few friends. Leading up to the trip, we were so excited! I had taken off a day from work, and had planned out all of my outfits (forever overpacking because I’ve decided to own how extremely high maintenance I really am). We couldn’t stop talking about all of the fun experiences we were going to have! When we got there, it didn’t disappoint. We went to a winery, hit Broadway, enjoying cocktails and live music, and danced until our feet hurt. There were so many laughs and late nights, and even though I was completely exhausted by the end of the trip, it was well worth it.
When we arrived at my parent’s house on the way back, the halfway point to my house, my mom’s immediate question was, “How was your trip?!” You would think my first response would be to list all of the fun things above. But honestly, the first thing that came to mind were three negative encounters I had with three different women while in Nashville. With each one, I was completely taken off-guard by how harsh and rude their comments were to me. If you’ve been reading my blogs up to this point, you may have figured out by now that anger is my most common response to negative altercations. So when I accidentally bumped into a woman at the bar of a restaurant packed with 5 million people, and her nasty response was to shove me while telling me to say excuse me, you can imagine the colorful, not so graceful, words that left my mouth. Definitely not my proudest moment! By the time the last encounter came along, I was already so on the defense that I found myself exhausted! My heart was breaking because I couldn’t fathom why someone would automatically think the worst of me while not even knowing me, and then attack me with their words. Their reaction fueled my anger, which caused me to respond with hate, instead of love, and I can quite sadly say that I helped spur on the disgusting cycle of worthless words.
Here’s the bottom line you guys – our words pack more punch than we probably realize, especially when our immediate response is to react, rather than hesitate from a place of understanding.
I give you the scenarios above because both of them were tainted by another’s nasty words and thoughtless reactions – my own included! When we react out of anger, and I am so guilty of this, I think it’s a reflection of our own selfishness because our immediate response is to make the situation about ourselves. If you are wronged or your feelings are hurt, get angry! I’m not saying ignore your emotions; what I’m saying is that we need to walk away with our anger, cool down, and return from a place of love that can only come from processing the situation at the feet of Jesus. I’m not trying to downplay your feelings. I’m just trying to get you to ask yourself if those angry words are really worth the lasting hurt to the person on the receiving end. Think about all of the times we have probably missed out on loving the miserable person in front of us because we were too distracted by ourselves to notice the sadness behind their hurtful, angry words. Now, don’t misunderstand me – if there is a toxic person in your life that the Lord is asking you to take a step back from, then please do. Our job isn’t to fix the people in our lives, our job is simply to love them. Sometimes loving someone means removing ourselves from them, but doing so in a respectful manner. You can still honor those that speak negatively of you by keeping your mouth shut. Your respectful silence in reaction to their obnoxious allegations against you, turns out to be the loudest response.
I believe that walking away with balled-up fists and a held tongue shows greater strength than spewing hate and reacting with anger and gross words. Whether you are the one being attacked, or the one doing the attacking – I beg you to please take a moment and remember that the hateful picture you paint will be engraved in the minds of everyone watching you. I’m not being materialistic, I’m being realistic. Unfortunately, the negative experiences we have with others stick with us in an eerie way. If our goal is to be people who are chasing after Jesus, then we are missing the point if we aren’t also chasing after His people from a place of peace and understanding. Don’t you want to be someone remembered by your kindness, rather than someone fighting so hard for the right to be right that you spread fire in the meantime? Your hurtful words do mean something, and I believe they have the power to completely destroy. Your intentions don’t mean a thing if your actions don’t walk in the way of love. You have the choice everyday to use your words and reactions to annihilate or bring light and life. Choose wisely.