When Emotion is Anathema to Gentleness


Twice so far this week (oh, who are we kidding? Twice in the same day…) I have wanted to get into a fight, or at the very least, a shouting match with people who have made friends of mine feel marked lousy. It didn’t matter to me whether it was a mistake or not, I just knew that they had hurt someone I care about and I was seeing red. It doesn’t help that I have been in a depleted, weary place for the past week and am finding my negative emotions easily amplified right now, but that didn’t matter either. All I knew is that these people needed to know just how much they suck. I even  gave in to internet courage and posted something to that effect on one hurt friend’s FB post about the incident.

And then I immediately felt guilty. I immediately felt like a fraud, a liar.

Here I am, claiming to espouse love and grace and gentleness, and yet I can act and say things so absolutely contrary to any of those things. I wanted my friend to know that she was supported and loved but I tore someone else down to do it, someone I didn’t even know.

I went back and edited my comment (to say that I wanted to yell at the HR person in question rather than hit them), but, obviously, I still feel badly about it. Or else I wouldn’t be sitting here, feeling compelled to write this at 6am the following morning.

Emotion can sometimes be an anathema to gentleness. Mine are currently running high, subject to amplification because of weariness and need to recharge/refresh, and I allowed them to rob me of an opportunity to show gentleness to a stranger. I lost a chance to model the gentleness that I am very much wanting and trying to internalize so that it becomes habit, instinct. That chance is gone now. I can change the post, I can apologize and try to do better, but I cannot erase that first response, that first action, those first words. They are written on time and memory. I won’t forget them, and I am honestly struggling a bit not to be consumed by them right now. I acknowledge my tendency to ruminate on things and cause myself a fair amount of emotional pain because of past mistakes. That is not what I want to do to here.

I acknowledge my humanity, my fallibility, and that I’m going to do the wrong thing at times. But I am not through. My growth is not over. I have felt that nudge of guilt, and I have listened to it. I see where I was wrong and I apologize for my behavior. I will try to be better today. I will strive for gentleness today, even with those I don’t know and may never meet. The words below were published by Jennifer Dukes Lee on her Facebook page yesterday and I am ever so thankful for them and their God-breathed truth.

“I want to be reminded that there is no failure. Failure is just another word for “try again tomorrow,” or “move on; there’s something better for you.” Failure is not the opposite of success. Failure is simply this: NOT TRYING.

Your bravery has a voice. As the week begins, listen to it. Bravery is the voice within that says, “I did not fail. I will try again tomorrow.” — Jennifer Dukes Lee

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Lingering in Grace


Here we are: the month is half over. And I don’t know what to say, what more I can write about grace. I’ve been lingering over the thought all day, though no epiphanies have come. I am trying to keep lingering in mind so I suppose I’ll just…write, shall I? Today, I read Jennifer Dukes Lee’s beautiful blog post about tucking oneself away and lingering in karios (the right, opportune, or supreme moment). It struck my heart hard, in a good way.

{“We are addicted to hustle, deadlines, speaking before we think, clock-watching, and constant movement. We are unsure how to live in kairos time — that big-picture awareness of eternity where time stands still.”}

Truthfully, I’m worn out today. I graded close to six classes’ worth of assignments, two sets per class nonetheless. It’s hard to linger when you have deadlines to meet, especially self-imposed ones. It’s hard to linger when I’m supposed to be blogging about grace. Maybe today is a day to give myself some grace.

Maybe today is the day to tell myself that it’s okay. That I don’t have to be earth-shattering or awe-inspiring. That I can just do as I have always done, love, linger, and remember that the world is still beautiful.

Thank you, Jennifer. I needed that.

BloPoMo Day 2: “Seasoned with Grace”


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.

Words, Folding and Piercing


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This is true not only of the words we read but definitely also of the words that we say.

“The world out there? It’s a tough place right now, you know? Sometimes, it feels like people are more interested in being right than being kind. Some want to have the last word, the final say, and the smug comeback. I see it too often: how people choose vitriol over virtue.

And that’s just the public word exchanges.

Some of us know painfully well how words behind closed doors can cut the deepest.

I have both loved and hated words. They have been used to heal me, and to hurt me.

You too?

We are all shaped by the words spoken over us. The names we’ve been called on the playground. The inspiring pep talks our parents gave us. The words the counselor spoke over us. The insults from the boss. The gentle affirmation from the kind lady who always sat in the last pew.

Behold the power of the spoken word:

“The tongue has the power of life and death.” {Proverbs 18:21}.

Words start wars, and they spark peace.

They are shadows, and they are chains. But they are also wings and freshest air.

Words can take you prisoner, or they can set you free.

Our words always fold into the souls of other human beings. That’s no small thing.Jennifer Dukes Lee