“Yeah, but you’re not the one with the Ph.D.”
“People prioritize what’s important to them; you never make time for your family; you need to get your priorities straight.”
“Your toe looks like a creature started nibbling at it and just continued to gnaw until there was nothing left [chomp, chomp, chomp].”
“You look like Kenny G with that big, ugly hair.”
“Don’t wear a bikini. You look terrible in a bikini. Look at that chub just spilling over.”
“You’re such a nerd. Nobody even likes you. You’re a loser.”
Mean words. People often speak without thought; words spill out of foolish, untamed mouths, oftentimes sparking raging fires in the hearts of the offended. The above-mentioned quotes have all stayed with me throughout my life. Insignificant as they seem, those are the phrases that come to mind when I think about the times I’ve been genuinely hurt by the words that have come out of a person’s mouth. Many of those words were, shockingly, spoken by family members.
We remember, don’t we? We can play it off like we couldn’t care less, but we’re so deeply affected by words when they’re laced with arsenic and hate. In the quiet of the night, we can hear the words being repeated, our hearts growing all the more dim and our emotions cascading with fury and sadness. It’s not even the words sometimes, but rather, the intention and meaning with which the words were spoken.
“How could they say that? That’s not even true. That really stung; my feelings are bruised. Why would someone say something so mean?”
We’ve all been there. That’s why kindness and validation are of paramount importance. Don’t you let a mean, disrespectful, indignant word come out of your mouth without realizing that you’ve ruined someone’s joy and negatively impacted their life.
I recently met a man who is walking a dark desert of severe back pain and neuropathy in his genital area. He’s very upset with God and he’s extremely displeased with his circumstances. Been there. He says he feels like there’s no hope. Unfiltered and raw were the emotions oozing from his spirit as he spoke to me. In that moment, I very much considered the importance of kindness and gentleness in this man’s life. I thought about how he doesn’t know Christ as his savior (I asked him) and my thoughts meandered to a place where I came to realize that, given his brass and infuriated energy, he was likely not coming across as “dope” or “chill” these days to anyone who crossed his path. No, he was modeling a hot n’ huffy attitude due to his circumstances.
I decided to encourage him. I started speaking life to him, telling him about how strong and great he still is and how wonderful and mighty God is. He perked up and listened. I told him all about my yucky, and started whispering tidbits of my story: the pain, the sadness, the desire for healing, the constant struggle to find normalcy. He stopped complaining and said, “Yeah, I guess it’s not that bad. I know it could be worse.” I paused him right there and told him that it’s okay to feel depressed and upset about the circumstances and trials God walks us through. I told Him about how God isn’t dull or unable to intervene. God’s walking him through this journey because He wants to grow and change him, I explained. He teared up. He’s ex-military, so that’s a really big deal. He apologized for his emotions, and I told him to cut it out. Expressing sorrow is healthy. I lifted him up, and I told him to keep going and persevering: “In the dark moments, think about how much good is available; think about how every breath is precious; every vibrant color is visible and stunning to the eyes; every smell is perceived, and every touch is felt.” His shoulders stopped slouching, and he walked a little taller.
He strolled into our office a grouch, with the façade of a bully. I could’ve stuck it to him with a nasty attitude, feeling entitled to my opinion and owning the false notion that I’m somehow important enough to voice my disgust or let out a rude aside. Is that you? Do you feel entitled to constantly voice your opinion, warranted or not? If so, I dare you to stare your ugly pride in the face and cut that crap out. It’s sin, and it damages people.
As he was wiping his eyes and his heart was softening, he confessed that he was thinking about committing suicide. He told me how much sorrow he’s in, and how he can’t live with the idea that he used to be a hero facing missions requiring the utmost bravery and strength, and how now he can’t even enjoy his desk job or physical intimacy without pain.
Imagine if I would’ve said something crass and belittling to this hurting man hiding behind a wall of anger. Any insensitive words could’ve set him off and triggered the action to end his life.
Friend, wake up. Life is beyond precious, and people’s emotions—no matter how rough and rigid on the outside—are delicately woven together. Be kind and embracing ALWAYS. You genuinely never know if you could change someone’s life with a simple kind word.
To my cousin who’s always been unashamedly boorish and insulting to me: I love you. You’re strong and worthy. Whatever your struggles, whatever your pain, God has not forgotten about you. I see you, and I acknowledge you and so does He. Do not eat your pain, my friend. God can be your sustenance and your portion. I know you’ve always found me an easy target because of my proclivity towards wearing my heart on my sleeve, but I know deep down you’re just as sensitive as I am, which is why I’ve never once insulted you back. Have respect, be kind, and stop picking on me for your own sake.
Today, the topic of kindness was on my heart. Yesterday, someone said something a bit insulting to me, and it jolted me and hit me like a brick. That person’s words immediately made me think about how important it is to have a loving, tame tongue.
“How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness” (James 3:5b-6).
A gentle word can travel long distances and reach the depths of even the most hardened of hearts. Something as simple as noticing the cashier’s cute nail polish color, or saying a kind word to your waiter can transform an individual’s outlook. Similarly, something rude and cold can ruin a person’s day, or even worse, be the catalyst that causes a downward spiral of unnecessary evil and darkness. Don’t be the cause for someone’s tears. Always encourage, always elevate, and always love.
I love people. I absolutely love listening to people’s stories and partaking in the human experience. We all have a story. Every single person has an inborn desire for validation. Whether from a boss, a friend, a loved one, or a neighbor, we all seek to be counted as important. In fact, we all want to feel indispensable in a way. Having a sense that we matter so much that life would simply just not be the same without us is something that, whether voiced or not, is a desire we all live with. Knowing that, take time to listen to people’s stories and meet them where they are.
In my life, I’ve befriended many people who could easily be considered dismissible by any account: an exterminator, a landscaper, immigrant workers doing odd jobs, the chain smoker at the local drugstore, nail salon ladies, housekeepers, etc. I’ve found that those people are the nicest, because they’re already in humble positions. They’re not looking to impress or flaunt any false perceptions of themselves, and they’d never say anything to get themselves in hot water. They’re hardworking, profusely grateful, and always willing to help.
“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth” (James 3:13-14).
Let’s be kind and embracing, always remembering that our words have power and the ability to uplift a soul, or dampen it and cause a person to sin and stumble. ALWAYS be kind. Be intentional; strive to be the person that makes someone’s day. And always remember that it’s the little things. It’s always the little things. It doesn’t take a lot to spark joy in a person’s heart. Be the rainbow amidst the storm. Validation goes a long way, and it absolutely has the power to heal an aching spirit.