You know how we do it, don’t you? We’re masters at it, we humans. Donning our lighthearted hats, we saunter as we talk, words spilling carelessly, and framed carefully with humor when, honestly (deep down inside) we mean what we’re saying. And the thing slips by as a joke, but we land our punches that way, and we chalk it up in the win column.
We savor such tiny victories, and we rarely see the trail of blood our pin pricks leave…
Regretfully, I must admit I’ve done this many times, most of them long ago, but some of them not so.
The colossal shame is that my son was fearful about something I spoke in this way, but they were not words to him, and it was once-upon-a-time, when I didn’t even think he was listening. I’ve said it before (that the boy’s not stupid) and he did hear, and he certainly got the message. The words lay waiting in his memory, seeds of angst for a child. And one day this week his fear grew large enough to break his heart.
A misunderstanding, yes, and his distress was unfounded. (I was only joking, remember?) As I soothed the hurt as best as I could, I remembered something incredibly painful, even more painful than seeing his suffering before me. It was a scripture verse we’d been memorizing together, he and I, and we’d practiced it together that very day. The scripture said:
26If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.
(James 1:26, NIV)
Oh, some things leave you speechless, don’t they?
At least (mute-for-the-moment) I was, but I mustered the courage to speak once more to my son, to hold his face between my hands, and to say the only words left to say:
- I was wrong.
- I’m sorry.
- Will you forgive me?
Thankfully, he said yes. But in the future, I’m going to check and re-check the reins to my tongue, and if necessary, pull them tighter.