While standing in the growing line at Starbucks, I peek over my shoulder and see her slowly push the shopping cart back and forth, her toddler son perched up front. She grabs his plump hands and gives him a canyon-wide smile. The little one is content as a canary to just look at his mama, and he returns her smile with one of his own.
Oh, those pumpkin-toothed smiles, the ones that laugh and gurgle with abandon and make the years spent buried under laundry, legos, and leftover PB&J completely worth it.
I want this mama to know she’s seen by more than those eyes of chocolate pools in the grocery cart. So I tell the barista I’ll pay for her drink too, and I successfully do so before breezing out the door with my pumpkin spice chai, the young mom completely unaware.
On the way home, I entertain an absurd option. I could have picked up the extra beverage myself, walked over and thrown the hot drink all over the unsuspecting mom. I could have just watched the scalding liquid drizzle down her face, neck, maybe even her baby.
Of course, that’s ridiculous. Unthinkable. Who would do that?
A lot of people, actually.
Maybe not with coffee, but a lot of people do exactly that with their words. I do exactly that every time I prioritize me and my big opinion over listening. Every time I refuse to take the time necessary to understand another’s viewpoint, choosing instead to judge and criticize.
We all want to be seen in our own way, in a please let my words hold value kind of way. The thing is: The way we choose to fill that need isn’t always good or helpful.
I’m not one to share my “hot topic” opinions freely on the internet because it’s impossible for the general public – those who have no relationship with me – to accurately know what I think and feel from reading a few sentences. I share my opinions with those who know me in real life – who know all of me. I share within the safe and secure context of relationship to people who get me, even if they don’t agree with me.
By the same token, I’m not one to publicly weigh in on the “blog post scandal of the week.” Because in the end, any argument I make would be earthquake shaky. Without the context of relationship – without knowing all of the author – I will color what she says and how she says it through the filter of my circumstances and experiences, not hers. This likely puts me light years away from the true intent of her words.
Perhaps this is just one reason God cautions us against judgmental criticism and encourages us to talk over disagreements first privately with the parties involved and always directly with Him. It’s best to first wise up in Him instead of weighing in with each other, to get a dose of His Word so we don’t douse others with harmful words.
You may not be buried under legos and laundry, but this world will do it’s best to bury you under something. Regret. Guilt. Shame. Fear. All of the above. We are to help ease one another’s burdens, not add to them. Misplaced opinions scald more than hot coffee ever could, burning the one in the line of fire as well as her sons and daughters and family who surely feel the weight of what she carries.
Of course healthy criticism and debate has its place. But holding our opinions close does, too. Because when we hold them close, we give grace. So the next time we go looking for ways to be seen and validated through words, let’s make sure the ways we choose glorify God and show grace to people.
Heaven knows I need it.
So I need to give it, too.
Deb Weaver says
Beautiful words: “You may not be buried under legos and laundry, but this world will do it’s best to bury you under something. Regret. Guilt. Shame. Fear. All of the above. We are to help ease one another’s burdens, not add to them.”
Thankful for you, Deb.
Melanie @ Only A Breath says
LOVE LOVE LOVE. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this post. Thank you for speaking love.
Thank you, sweet Melanie.
This: “every time I prioritize me and my big opinion over listening.” is SO me! I run my mouth and because what I have to say is so bloomin’ important…or so I think. Thank you, Kristen, for this thought provoking post. I needed to be reminded not only to show grace, but to be quite and LISTEN. thank you…thank you…thank you!!!
Ah girl, *I* need the lesson more than anyone. True story.
Love you Mary. xo
Kristin Taylor says
I’m so glad I read this today. It’s so true and so hard sometimes. But you’re speaking wise words, my friend!
Dana Butler says
MAN I’m having issues trying to leave this comment. Not sure what’s going on. But trying again and if you get this twice, just delete the first one.
OKAY. First off, THANK YOU SO MUCH for writing this post. For speaking truth in love. I’ve been so deeply grieved lately by some of the ways I’ve seen Christians publicly criticize each other. Yes, there’s a place for healthy, respectful debate. But this? It made me sick to my stomach. I’ve asked myself, “Is this really OKAY somehow? In this world of blogging and opinions and believers with differing views? This harshness toward one another? What about letting our speech be full of grace, seasoned with salt?”
Anyway – just – thank you so much for this. I need to hear these words at times too.
AND – I just randomly noticed you’d added my “How to Live Crazy-On-Fire when You’re Beyond Exhausted” post to your “other fresh air reads” list?! Woah – so cool! Thank you so much! Such a fun discovery today. 🙂
Bless you friend! Thank you again!
I loved that post, Dana! So happy to include it.
Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God says
I love the line “we need to wise up in Him before we weight in with each other”! True words to live by. I’m usually pretty good at keeping my opinions to myself, but sometimes in the fury of emotion, harmful words will slip out…words I can’t take back in. Thank you for the reminder that we need to shower one another with grace and only when invited in, speak the truth in love. Great post girl!
Lori Harris says
I thank you for this post, Kristen- so true and so full of grace.