Feelings are interesting little things, aren’t they? They play a huge role in our lives, controlling aspects of our thoughts and actions in ways that we don’t always realise, or want for that matter. For the most part, when making decisions in my life, I try to be objective about it so that I am not making decisions based on how I feel, or how other people may feel. That doesn’t always work and I have found myself at times doing things out of fear that others will have their feelings hurt by my words or actions. Or I find myself doing things because they feel ‘good’, then regretting them later because while they felt good at the time, it didn’t mean they were wise.
But I one thing that really drives people’s feelings is words spoken to them, or in some cases, at them. I had a conversation recently that reminded me how important our words are and how they impact the way people feel. I was chatting to a lady and during the conversation she mentioned a comment that was made to her a couple of years ago. She didn’t dwell on it for too long but she made a point of mentioning it. Personally, I have a belief that people do and say things for a reason, so if a person mentions something, there is a good chance it’s important to them, otherwise it wouldn’t still be playing on their mind. Right after this lady made her comment, she raised something else but I stopped her and told her that I wanted to acknowledge that what was said to her all those years ago wasn’t right and I apologised that she went through that. I wasn’t the one that made the comment, I wasn’t even on the around, but I feel it’s important to acknowledge how people feel and if possible, genuinely apologise for what the person went through. Not everyone will agree with me on that, but that’s my approach to things. After apologising to her, we moved right along and carried on with what we were there to discuss.
Fast forward 2 days and I get a phone call from another person who was present to tell me that the lady I apologised to had spoken to her about it afterwards and told her that my apology and acknowledgement had helped her to realise that she had been holding onto that comment and harbouring so much hurt because of it for the last few years. My apology to her had in a way let her know that it was ok for her to be feeling hurt, and that helped her to really let go and move on. And that’s the thing about feelings, they may not be fact, but they are legitimate. Feelings are true and they are real. Had that same comment been made to me, I would have just brushed it off, but it wasn’t made to me, it was made to her and the way she feels about it is legitimate. We all feel differently and react differently and neither one of us is wrong, so to speak, it’s just the way we feel.
Our words are powerful and we can either build someone up or tear them down with the things we say. There is a verse in Proverbs that reads, “the tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.” (Prov 18:21, NLT) When I first read that, I didn’t make too much of it, but over the years I have come to understand just how true that is because we really can impact people by what we say. We can shatter their confidence or empower them. We can make them feel worthless or make them feel loved. One of the biggest lies we are taught from a young age is the phrase, ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.’ I’m sorry, but in some cases physical bruises heal a lot quicker than most verbal bruises because the words that people speak to us or at us or over us tend to play over and over in our minds and tend to get buried deep in our hearts where no one can see them. I know this first hand.
When I was in high school, I used to occasionally walk around singing. Nothing too loud or dramatic because I really can’t sing well, but I would just sing out loud. There was this one day when I was in the school canteen with two of my friends and I was singing and one of my friends looked up at me and said, “oh, God, please don’t sing like that” and proceeded to laugh, my other friend joining in. They thought it was hilarious and chuckled for a little longer before moving on. You would think that a comment like that would just wash off, but it didn’t. I still remember that day like it was yesterday and I still remember how I felt; embarrassed and hurt. For years after that, I never allowed myself to sing out loud. If I went to a karaoke bar, I would only get up if there were other people with me so that their voices would drown out mine. It has only been in the last few years that I have allowed myself to occasionally sing out lot while I am around people and even then it is very low. The comment was made to me in 1995, when I was 15 yrs old.
You might be thinking to yourself that I should have just gotten over it, but when a comment like that is made to someone who is insecure, it sticks. And sometimes you can’t just ‘get over’ something, you need to live it for a bit. Today, a comment like that would make me sing louder just to annoy the person that made it, but back then, it shut me up. Literally. And the worst part is that I am willing to bet money that neither of those girls ever thought about the moment again, they saw it as a joke and moved on. What we sometimes view as a joke, can actually hurt more because it hits a nerve. But because we laugh it off as a joke, the other person just goes along with it and tucks it away inside.
When I read about the interactions Jesus had with people in the bible, He never minimised how people felt. He spoke words over life over them. Yes there were times when He spoke harshly but the only times He did that was to call out the religious leaders who were trying to lord it over everyone else and who were making others feel less than enough. All the other interactions He had with people showed His heart of compassion and empathy for people. He demonstrated what it really means to LOVE PEOPLE because He was affirming and gentle. He spoke words of life over people and tried to help them find freedom.
That is the kind of person I want to be, someone who empathises with people and tries to walk in their shoes. Someone who speaks words of love and life and encouragement over people. Someone who points people to heaven and shows them that they have a Father in Heaven who so loves them. Not someone who speaks negative words at people or to people or about people. Do I always do this well? No, I do not always do this well. I am at times dismissive and harsh and can say mean things of people. I am working on that. And you have my permission to call me on that because that is not who I want to be. What I desperately want to be is someone who loves people the way Jesus did. I want to be someone who lives out the Proverb ‘a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.’ (Proverbs 15:1) What I want US to be is a people who instantly default to love, who instantly want to encourage and empower and uplift people. That is who I want us to be, because we have enough people in the world that are causing hurt and pain and destruction, we don’t need any more.
Much love, people xo