A Typical or Atypical Pastor's Wife-whichever one you come to believe

Welcome to the barnyard. Watch your step! The things written here are raw and unedited. Just my thoughts thrown on a page as they flow from my heart.

Monday, January 3, 2011

You Gotta Watch How You Say Things

I have a new pastime.  Funeral crashing.  At least that's what the checkout lady at Sam's Club now thinks.  

My husband and I attended a funeral for the husband of one of his co-workers.  My husband officiated the service.  After the funeral, we attended a meal with the family. 

On the way home, we stopped at Sam's Club to grab a pizza for the kids because we were stuffed and couldn't eat another bite.  While going through the checkout line, the cashier made a comment about the pizza being dinner.  "Oh no, we said.  We're stuffed.  We just had a huge meal.  This is for our children's dinner."  "Oh, she said, looking at us all cleaned up and dressed up.  You went out to eat!  How nice."  "Well, in a way, I said.  We were at a funeral and they had a huge meal afterward."  "Oh, I'm so sorry, said the cashier."  "No problem, my hubby said, we didn't even know the man."  "Yep, I said, we never even met him."

The look on the cashier's face was priceless.  Based on what we had just said she thought that we had walked into a funeral for someone we didn't know just to get a free meal.  She didn't quite know what to say so she said, "Well, I've heard of wedding crashers but you're the first funeral crashers I've ever met." 

We quickly explained the situation and we all burst out laughing along with the cashiers and the people in line on either side of us who had been listening with interest to the conversation.

It was a good reminder that you gotta watch how you say things. 

A friend of mine posted a question on her Facebook status.  It said, "An encourager is one who brightens up the room when they enter it.  A discourager is one who brightens the room when they leave it.  Which one are you?" 

I stopped to think for a minute.  I decided that the answer to that question was better found in the opinion of others than myself.  I know what I mean to say most of the time.  I know how I mean to say it but the fact of the matter is that it doesn't really matter what you mean if others perceive it in a way differently than what you meant.  

Sometimes people get upset by what I say to them because I didn't communicate it properly so that they understood my intentions.  And as a result, people have gotten upset with me from time to time.  It doesn't feel good when people misconstrue or come to erroneous decisions about what I say.

After spending years justifying not having to change by saying things like "but you know I didn't mean it that way", "I don't remember saying THAT", "1  Corinthians 13 says that you should think the best of me",  "you need to be more gracious when thinking of others", I finally decided that I needed to sit down and take a good, honest look at how and what I was communicating.
You see, I want my communications with other people to be life-giving.  I want to have a positive influence on the lives of others and be able to minister to others, but if they always misconstrue or mis-perceive my communications then it is impossible to build a bridge of trust with them which means that I have no access to their lives and my words are said in vain.  I realized that it wasn't the people that needed to change, it was me.

So I began to change how I talked with people. 

Now, I apologize for what ever part I played in the miscommunication even if I didn't do anything wrong.  It's almost inconceivable how much mileage you can get out of a simple "I'm sorry".   Whether you want to admit it or not, you had a part to play just as much as the other person.

I ask questions for clarification before saying anything.  This not only tells the person that I am listening to them but that I truly want to understand what they are trying to communicate to me.

I check my body language, especially my face.  Everything shows on my face.  I can't hide it.  So when I know that my face is not doing what it should, I know that there is something in my heart that needs adjusting.  I so want to have God's heart towards other people and I often pray that His heart would dominate my own.  After being in ministry for a long time, you come to realize that some people are not open to two-way communication.  They just want to tell you what they think and have you agree with them or sympathize with them and take their side.  So when they have a problem, it's hard to communicate anything to them that actually might help them.  My flesh grows weary with that and I just want to tell them to "put their big girl pants on and get over it."  Usually I don't do this, but there have been occasions when I think it's what God would have said too.  LOL!  Even Jesus said to the disiples once, "how long must I put up with your unbelief?"   They should have known better by then and Jesus was letting them know it.

I'm careful how I word things.  Even if it's just a passing comment.  Instead of saying to people "I like your shirt or that sweater is really pretty", I say "you look so pretty in that color or that sweater brings out the pretty color in your eyes."  I don't lie or make something up but when you look at people expecting to see something good, you can always find something.  Way too many Christians always see how other Christians are different from them and become judgemental.  That being said, I am always honest even if I know the person might not like what I have to say but because they asked and I've built a bridge with them, I can usually say it without a major mishap. 

I don't give my opinion unless I'm asked for it.  So many times people will say to me, "why didn't you say something sooner?"  And I tell them "because you didn't ask."  I have lots of opinions that have never crossed my lips that could have saved people from a lot of heartache, but I've found that interjecting my opinion when it's not asked for is usually like spitting in a fan.  It ends up in my face along with the fly it picked up on it's way back to me.  It also gives others the impression that I have way too high an opinion of myself, so they just tune me out or tell me to "shut up".   What's scary is that usually, in these cases, I do have too high an opinion of my opinions and need to show some humility and grace myself.   I have learned the valuable lesson of praying for people when God allows me to see something in their lives.  I only say something if God lets me know in no uncertain terms that I should and provides me with what I am to say.  By then He has plowed their hearts and they are ready to receive sound advice and constructive criticism.

Of course, there are those moments when I engage my mouth before my brain and I end up trying to grab my words out of the air before they hit the listener's ears.  That's just imperfect me.  I occasionally blunder through life with as much zeal as a kid at Christmas, but without wisdom.

Matthew 12:36 says "But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment."  Idle means slow, useless, barren or unprofitable.  Unprofitable for whom?

Matthew 12:37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. "
So our words either give life and build up or give death and tear down.  I don't see any neutral ones mentioned.  And from the looks of this verse, it affects me as much as others. 

My kids are notorious "kidders".  But I tell them all the time that "unless the person you are kidding knows you're kidding AND is laughing, it's not kidding."   I always tell them that if a person wants to tell of something silly they did so that everyone can laugh, it's up to them, not to us to expose their humiliation.  It's true that sometimes they laugh, but it's only because they're embarrassed, not because they think it's so funny.  This doesn't endear people to us at all.  Love covers, it doesn't expose.  Most "exposers" who use the experiences of others in this way are only trying to make themselves look better because of insecurity.   The "good ole saying" that says "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" fits here.  And if you have to say something negative, say it in private like the Bible instructs! 

So, let me ask you.  Are you an encourager or a discourager?

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