Summer break has arrived! After a really tough year, I’m thrilled for some time off, and an opportunity to try to get some writing done. I’ll be practicing a little on the blog…perhaps I have a few readers still left?
He caught me off guard, and for a moment the words got stuck somewhere in that quicksand between wanting to justify myself and giving a rapid-fire response then quickly exiting his presence.
I’m perfectly comfortable being the curious one, letting questions slip from my mouth the way an oversized scoop of ice cream topples from a cone on a sunny day. I just can’t seem to stop them, and before I know it, there they are, splattered in front of me.
I’ve kinda gotten used to that, accepted it is who I am.
It’s just that I’m not used to things being turned around, the questions fired back at me.
I had asked about a college pennant on the wall of a teacher’s room I sometimes popped into while tracking our SED students each day. He generously answered, but as I turned to go, he questioned me. And my words sort of froze. Not everyone I work with knows that I didn’t finish college. Although I no longer turn fifty shades of pink when acknowledging that fact, neither do I readily share. But I went ahead and told him because, he had been so open, and, well, he asked. “No degree here. Joined the Air Force out of high school. Then I stayed home and raised six kids.”
As I walked away, he once again caught me off guard with words that slipped up from behind and almost tripped me.
“I’m proud of you for that.”
I don’t know about you, but those aren’t words I hear every day as an adult. And in the world of educators, someone telling a long-term stay-at-home-mom, without a college degree, a mom who homeschooled her children for two and a half decades, “I’m proud of you” is a bit of an anomaly. So truth? I picked those words up and put them in my pocket to save for later.
I don’t think we ever outgrow a childish delight in hearing words of approval.
My current job title is a para-educator.
Para. Which, according to Merriam Webster, means subsidiary. An accessory or of secondary importance.
Yeah, on a really brutal day, I think about that, think about choices I’ve made and wonder if what I have chosen makes me of secondary importance, makes me less than, not up to par. (Even so, I’d make most of them again.)
Ever felt that way? Like you don’t quite measure up? Like if there really was an island for misfit toys, you’d take up residence? If not, let me assure you, in moments – or days – like that, kind words, words of approval, are golden. The Scriptures say this:
The tongue can bring…life. (Proverbs 18:21a NLT)
Hearing words of affirmation or approval from others can put a spring back into our steps and motivate us when we are dragging. The right word at the right time can bring renewed life to a weary soul.
But oh, how careful we must be.
Because a fuller rendering of the verse reads:
The tongue can bring death or life
Words can also be disapproving, critical, cutting, deadly. And if we base self-value on the thoughts and words of others, we become emotional yo-yos in the hands of someone else.
I visited with several women this week, some out in the Colorado sunshine, a couple in the crazy chaos of my home and a couple at work.
And I am amazed that these gifted people, these educated, attractive women who should exhale nothing but confidence confessed that their moods and self-perception can be greatly impacted by the words and opinions of others.
Yes, the tongue can bring death or life.
But it is a pretty miserable way to live, weighing ourselves on the broken scales of others, folks who most likely are also mere yo-yos in the hands of someone else, having their own ups and downs based on, well, the thoughts and opinions of others.
Such a vicious cycle to get caught up in.
Personally, I don’t think I will ever get to a place where I’m completely indifferent to what others think. But I have learned a better way to live than succumbing to the opinions of others. A way that is far less dizzying than the yo-yo lifestyle.
It is rooted in an Old Testament scripture: Micah 6:8.
He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with the Lord your God?
God has shown us a simplistic trifecta of the good, balanced, riding-above-the-waves-of-public-opinion life.
If we live out these three things, we can walk confidently, regardless of either words of praise or criticisms of others.
First of all, we must do justly.
That means action.
How we live out our life, how we act, our manner of being. It is all wrapped in “justly.”
Doing the right thing.
Whether anyone sees or not.
Whether it is the easy thing or not.
Whether it costs us something or not.
Honesty. Integrity. Words matching actions. Facebook posts matching real life.
Do the right thing. It means
if when you mess up, you own it and do what you can to turn a wrong into a right.
Secondly, love mercy.
According to Merriam Webster, mercy means showing compassion especially to an offender. We must develop a heart, a LOVE for compassion. Not just to those who are loving in return, but to those who have wronged us, and to those who don’t know how to love in return. It’s easy to be kind to those who will hand us back some kindness, but God calls us to go far beyond that. The ones most in need of compassion are the ones who act most unlovable. A kneejerk response is to lash out at those who hurt us, to wish evil on ones who have treated us unfairly, to want to get even with well, you know. Them. Him or her. ’Cause they deserve it. After what they did. Or said. Or didn’t do. Or didn’t say.
But to love mercy, means going deep into compassion, deep into the power of Christ, knowing that we are able to love because He first loved us. We love Him, and then others through Him.
And finally, we must walk humbly with the Lord God. Not thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. But also, not thinking less of ourselves than we ought. Instead, recognizing the astounding truth of Ephesians 2:10. The New Living Translation says it this way: For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. You – and I – are God’s masterpieces, His works of art, His pride and joy, and each of us has been created for specific things, specific places, specific times, with specific people. We have all we need to make a difference right where we are, and no one else can define us or the things we are called to do.
If we can genuinely live out these three things – living our lives with integrity and honesty, loving others from a place of deep compassion and mercy, and walking in true humility because we understand we were created on purpose for a purpose – then we are no longer yo-yos in the hands of other people’s opinions. Free Indeed.
Grateful for this wonderful life,
Marie with a 🙂