"Careful words make for a careful life;
careless talk may ruin everything."
Proverbs 13:3 (The Message)
If you have children, particularly a teenage daughter ;-), you probably know already, how important it is to choose your words carefully - especially when in the middle of a conflict with your teen. My daughter is my first teen and let me tell you - I have made some pretty interesting mistakes with her. The biggest being using careless talk.
Let's look at some definitions that I feel are important for total understanding of this verse:
- Careless = spontaneous or disregarded
- Spontaneous = proceeding from natural feeling or native tendency without external constraint; arising from momentary impulse.
- Disregarded = to pay no attention to: treat as unworthy of regard or notice
- Careful = marked by attentive concern and solicitude; marked by painstaking effort to avoid errors or omissions
- Solicitude = attentive care and protectiveness; an attitude of earnest concern or attention
Do you notice that the definition of spontaneous says "natural feeling" or "native tendency"? What I get from this is that our careless words come from our natural sin nature. It takes effort and attentiveness to use careful words.
When I get upset with one of my kids, my natural tendency is to want to yell. I want to dish out a consequence and I want that consequence to "hurt" - not physically, but emotionally, so "maybe they'll think twice before doing whatever it is they did, in the future." Is this what God wants, though? I don't believe it is.
I believe that God wants us to show concern for our kids, even while angry with them. Especially while angry with them. If we're careless with our speech it won't take much to destroy our relationship with our kids (or our spouses, or our friends, or our co-workers, or our neighbors, or our... you get the hint).
When I'm careless with my speech, I'm not showing attentive concern to my child. I'm showing my child that their feelings and thoughts are unworthy of my attention - when just the opposite is true! Just because I'm angry with my child, doesn't mean I stop caring about them. Or stop wanting to protect them. But, my sin nature comes in and sometimes, I just want to make them mad right back! (Yes... I have a lot of maturing to do in my heart.)
I'm learning to be more careful with my words. When I get angry with my kids, I try to step back from the situation. I give myself a time-out. In my perfect world, that time-out would consist of me praying or repeating a Bible verse I'm trying to remember for times like this, but I'll be honest and say that sometimes, that time-out looks more like me yelling into my pillow, every spontaneous thought that comes into my head. I mean really, who out there hasn't done that from time to time? ;-)
I'm seeing that when I have an attitude of concern when it comes to what I say to my children in those times of conflict, it helps to keep everything calm. In a sense, it makes for a careful life. My kids typically don't react to my carefully chosen words in the same manner they do when I allow my spontaneous thoughts to come rushing out. They respond better, which causes me to respond better. Which keeps our lives a whole lot more peaceful!
Am I saying not to give your children consequences when they disobey? Absolutely not! But, when you're giving the consequence, choose your words wisely. Be attentive to what their body language is telling you about what and how you're saying what you say. If you need to, take a break to really think about what you're trying to say so you know that your message is coming across and not getting muddled with the emotion you might be feeling from their disobedience. And above all, make sure your love for them shines through!
Oh - a comment I want to make that doesn't really go along with this post, but does fit with the verse: Does living a careful life mean we can't have fun? I don't see where this verse or the definitions I wrote says that. We are to protect our lives. We are to avoid errors or omissions. And we are to pay attention to our lives. So, for those who find pleasure in "living on the edge" - do it to your heart's content - just make sure you're well protected while doing so. Avoid making mistakes in your life - pretty self-explanatory. Avoid omissions - don't ever miss an opportunity to tell someone you love them. Don't ever miss out on something that you want to do - so long as it goes along with God's will. He wants us to live life! He wants us to experience all that life has to offer - so long as it doesn't go against His desires for your heart. And He wants us to pay attention to our lives. Don't just sit back and watch the world go by. Get out and experience life! Live a little! Have fun! Just keep your eyes on Christ while you're doing it. :-)