This morning, I woke in tears from the throes of a heartbreaking dream. No tragedy, no death, just words that robbed my soul of joy and stabbed my heart like darts.
I dreamed that I was performing a song for big event. Friends, family, everyone was there to celebrate this event. It was a song I was used to and usually sang beautifully. For the event, though, the musical director/pianist added strings to the arrangement. I wasn’t aware this would be happening and it threw me off so I missed my cue for the first verse and the first chorus was rough, too. I caught up, though, and ended the song beautifully and triumphantly with two high school choir and trio friends joining me at the end of it, just as we used to be. Everyone loved it. The joy was palpable, the applause thunderous. Afterward, though, the musical director (who looked and sounded suspiciously like Benedict Wong) had nothing but harsh words and disappointment for me over my mistakes. Someone came up to tell me how lovely it all was and how people would remember it. He replied that all they’d remember were my lazy mistakes and launched into a tirade of all I had done wrong. I walked away down the platform steps while he ranted to this person, trying not to cry as I passed my friends. I physically felt my shoulders hunch, though, as I broke down, even though I didn’t stop walking. All the joy was gone; the triumph was gone. I had just failed miserably. I woke up crying. I was still crying fifteen minutes later when I posted about it on this blog’s Facebook page with a message near and dear to my heart.
In this experience, I am reminded starkly of the immense and vast power of words. Gone are the days of the lie “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Complete and utter drivel. We are studying, researching, and realizing more and more the last effect of those words spoken over, about, and to us, both negative and positive.
Words have stopped passions in their tracks. Careless words meant as jests, “constructive criticism”, or even “brutal honesty” have strangled gifts, talents, and joys before they ever had a chance to develop and shine. Art has gone unmade, music unsung or unplayed, challenges unmet, all because of words spoken to these souls that attached there and called them less than. Words have also reached into lonely hearts and sparked hope and life again. Words have spoken love to the friendless, gentle comfort to the grieving, and strength to our weakened parts. Words are Powerful! Words can be wielded for good or for ill. They can be weapons to destroy or bandages to bind and heal. They can be a stumbling block or a stepping stone. What makes the difference is grace.
Grace allows us to taste our words before we speak them. Grace encourages us to temper emotion in our listener’s heart and soul’s best interest. Even if what we have to say is hard or difficult to express, grace tempers the words with love and compassion and keeps us from being cruel. Grace allow us to speak from a place of help and care and can keep us from inadvertently treading on dreams.
In the book of Colossians, the Bible says, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, season with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Chapter 4, verse 7, NIV)” In this chapter, the Apostle Paul is writing to the Colossian Church and encouraging them in the sharing of their faith. However, I think this verse stands well on its own and is massively relevant to the everyday, secular as well as spiritual.
Salt is a preservative, not just a seasoning. It keeps meat from corrupting and allows it to be stored up. If we season our words with grace, we keep them from–as best we can–corrupting and destroying the souls and hearts of those to whom we speak them. If we but take a moment to taste our words before we let them loose upon others and the world, who knows what good can come of it? What hurt we might avoid?
So today, dear friends. Let us use our words well, to give life and hope rather than destroy it. One of my life mottos comes from Jennifer Dukes Lee. She wrote, “Our words always fold into the souls of other human beings. And that is no small thing.” Let us leave a legacy of kind and graceful words. Let’s keep seasoning our conversation so that we may give answers that build up hearts instead of tearing them down.