My thoughts (Melody Merida):
When I was a child I was forbidden to utter bad words; my whole family was forbidden to utter bad words. “Bad words” meant everything from the usual four-letter suspects to words like butt, fart, or even gosh. Every word that came from my mouth had to be measured to be sure that it wouldn’t offend God.
I remember when I was about 10 years old and I was helping my dad with a plumbing repair under the kitchen sink. By “helping” what I mean is that he would ask me to hand him a tool and I would ask him which one it was. He would try to describe it and I would inevitably hand him the wrong tool. We went through that process a few times before he just started coming out of the cabinet and getting the tools himself.
On one such a time he didn’t quite clear the edge of the cabinet with his head. There was a loud, heavy thump and blood began to appear on his skin. I hardly paid any attention to his injury however, because of the string of cuss words that flowed out of my pious father’s mouth. I’m not talking about gosh or darn or dagnabit, he let the real whoppers fly!
The prudent thing for me would have been to ignore his swearing and either be quiet or comfort him as he tended to the large gash on his forehead. But my ten year old self wasn’t very good at prudence. I said something like, “OOmmmm, those are bad words! You’re not supposed to say those words! People who say those words are going to hell!”
Still stinging from the wound, dad responded with a glare and a command for me to actually do something useful and get him a towel for his head. I did as he suggested but I also yelled for my mother. She came into the kitchen, saw my father’s wound, and began tending to him immediately — while I relayed the curse words that had accompanied his accident. I knew for sure that my mom would speak to my dad about his language and I wanted to be there to see it.
But, she didn’t say a word about it. Instead she said something comforting, even going so far as to suggest that the cabinet was the wrong size and probably shorter than most sink bases. My dad laughed and after a few minutes went back to work. (A week or so later when I dropped a dish that crashed to the floor, I tried using the same words my dad had used to express my angst, but oddly, they didn’t get the same mild reaction from my mother.)
Something my ten year old self was too young to get but that I later learned is the wisdom of Proverbs 10:13, “From the fruit of the mouth one is filled with good things.”
My mom got it when she spoke to my dad in a loving way. The fruit of her mouth on that day was kind, compassionate, and generous. The fruit of my mouth was judgmental, selfish, and immature — typical for a ten year old. But lest I dismiss that memory as insignificant because of my youth, I have to think about the words I choose now. Do I still jump at the chance to say “gotcha!”? Do I still rush to put people in their place? Do I still react in a way that communicates anything but love and compassion? If I want good things to come of the words I choose, I must choose good words.
Thought for the day: God, help me to think before I speak; may I choose words that are full of your love and your compassion. Amen.
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