Words of criticism rush to the tongue so quickly, but words of praise are harder to come by. Disciplining ourselves as parents to choose to speak positively before we allow ourselves to go negative will have a profound effect on our children’s spirits.
“Mom, Mom! Look at my room. I’m done and I did it really fast, too!” (Deep breath because the room isn’t done, not even close.) || Pause || I have choices right now. I can SQUASH his enthusiasm and joy over finishing so quickly, which clearly was his goal. I can rant about everything that isn’t done. I can ignore it and remind myself that his eagerness to do XYZ is the reason for his sloppiness. I can find something good to say and then do some instructing. || UN pause || “I know you are in a hurry to get outside. It’s great that you can pick up so quickly when you need to. Do you remember why I asked you to clean up your room? Grandma is coming and your sister needs to be able to sleep on a sleeping bag on the floor. Would you want to sleep on that floor like that? Let’s work just a little harder to pick up the floor and get it vacuumed for your sister.” I’m sure you can imagine the other version of the conversation, the one where I give vent to my frustration pointing out all the things that are still in the way and the poor job that was done. I’m sorry to say that all too often, the negative words come tumbling out before I’ve even given thought to their impact.
However, I felt convicted and gently instructed by the Lord this last week to speak life-giving words first, say something positive while I take a moment to choose the words of instruction more carefully. If I simply react, I will focus on the moment. If I ||pause|| and take time to respond, then I have a chance to focus on the character behind the situation at hand. In my situation above, for example, I would normally have launched into something about how messy the room was and how rushed he obviously was. But the character behind it was valuing his activity that he rushed to get onto more than the task he was given by me to complete. I am that way with the Lord sometimes, too. So focused on what I want to do, that I rush through things that are important to Him to just get them done, so I can move onto what I want to do. I’m really not so different from my son, the stage it plays out on may be different, but the heart behind stage is really the same. Choosing life-giving words means that in humility, I don’t put him down for being in a hurry. I don’t holler about the sloppy job. I positively identify with his motivation then gently encourage him to press on. I breathe more life into Him, the way my Father does into me. “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7
Reaction versus Response
The discipline is required at the moment just before the reaction. I must stop myself from simply reacting. Reacting comes from me. It comes from emotion. It comes from short-sidedness. It is what comes naturally from my sinful nature. As I am reminded that as the “grown-up” (though I still don’t feel grown-up), I am called to use and model self-discipline and intervene before I simply react. Response comes from the leading of the Holy Spirit. It says, “Lord, how do you want me to handle this?” instead of merely flying off the handle. Response comes from a decision that was prompted by the quick intervention before the reaction. The catch in my spirit that halted my reaction. All too often I miss the Holy Spirit’s attempt to intervene and call me to breathe and respond rather than react. But, I desire to regularly exercise self-discipline and strengthen my ability to hear that call of intervention to breathe and respond.
Father, You are not in a hurry, though I so often am. Help me to slow down in my spirit, to be still and know that You are God. In that stillness, I will hear You more clearly. I desire to respond to my children the way You so lovingly respond to them. Help me exercise self-discipline over my tongue and choose to respond with life-giving words rather than react with spirit-quenching criticism. Help me to peer into the heart of my child and see the potential that lies there beyond my words. Set a watch over my mouth, guard the door of my lips. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
How do you catch yourself from launching into criticism? What helps you to speak more life-giving words?