Sunday, August 26, 2012

You Can't Take It Back

Last year about this time, Edy, the assistant director of the children’s home where I work, got married.  The next day, Rachel was talking about the wedding.   
She said, “I’m glad Mr. Edy got married.  If he didn’t get married, he would be all alone when he gets old…like you, Mama.”   
Of course, I wasn’t really offended by her reference to me being “old”, but I did play it up a bit, “Oh! Are you calling ME old???!!!” I asked.   
“Well, not SO old. Just kind of old.  But you are a LOT older than Mr. Edy!!!”  
 I laughed and told her that she ought to quit while she is ahead.
Rachel’s experience of saying something and then digging herself in deeper reminds me that I need to watch my words, too.  Careless words can never be taken back once they are spoken. 
When I was in my second year of college, I usually ate lunch with a group of people whose humor centered around shooting “zingers”…clever (or so we thought) little barbs that targeted the weaknesses of others sitting at our table.  We would try to outdo each other to see who could come up with the most clever “zinger”.
I am ashamed to say that I got pretty good at shooting them off…until one day, I actually noticed the face of the person I had just “zinged”.  This person tried to laugh it off, but I could see that to him it was not funny at all.   
Suddenly, I saw the habit of “zinging” people as not as clever or funny as we all thought it was.  I was ashamed of the person I was becoming.  I don’t think I intentionally did another “zinger” after that.
However, I remember one time, probably 10 years ago, that I said something to a friend that was a bit flippant, and could probably be classified as a “zinger”.  I didn’t intend to say anything hurtful, but the comment did target an area of her life that was difficult for her, and my words did hurt.  There was not anything I could say to retrieve the hurtful words.  All I could do was to say I was sorry, and be more careful after that.  Thankfully, my friend was gracious and willing to forgive.
Now Rachel’s comments were entirely innocent.  (After all, to a five-year-old, a 25-year old person probably seems almost ancient, let alone her 49-year-old mother.)  She will learn with time, as we all need to do, how to consider what she says and let only words that build others up come out of her mouth.
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. 
Ephesians 4:29
 (This story was first shared in my newsletter dated September 2011.)


  1. I love how our children can remind us of our own shortcomings through innocent conversations. My daughters are always doing or saying things which are a reflection of ME. A reminder of how much they see that I don't realize they see. Your daughter is beautiful! :)

    1. How true. Sometimes when she reflects something back to me that she sees in me, I have to laugh. Other times, I can only think, "Yikes! I really do that, don't I?" Sometimes looking in our little human mirrors is not so comfortable.


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