Thursday, December 18, 2008

Loose Lips...

...sink ships.

This was a popular WWII propaganda saying warning people from discussing military information in public. The idea was if you were blabbing on about ship movements, enemy ears could pick that up and it could lead to an attack on an Allied fleet. I'm not sure how much of a threat this really was, but it was a good reminder to the public at a time of war to consider even their day to day talk part of the war movement.

As I follow the Lord, I am becoming more and more aware of the way my own loose lips, and those of others, can really sink the "ships" of others. The words we use in conversation with people are so powerful; they can either lift people up, encourage them, edify them, challenge them, or they can tear down, deflate, frustrate, belittle, or embarrass. I know I am guilty of having loose lips, and as a daughter of God I want to be in confession about this with Him and ask for His Holy Spirit to allow my speech to be honoring to Him and only helpful and edifying to others.

In an effort to do this, I have a list of often-used phrases that I want to stop using. I'd love your thoughts on this, and if you have some expressions you think should be removed from a Christian woman's vernacular, I'd love to hear them. Here they are, in really no particular order.

1. When are you going to start a family? I know that most people, when they ask this to married people without children, are only trying to express interest in their lives and/or encourage them to embrace the joys of parenting. And there is a timeand a place to ask friends and people in your lives about when they plan to have children. But in my observation it's one of things that is best left asked at a minimum, and in private, and not, say ,across the table at a church potluck. First, it implies that if you are a married without children, you don't "have a family". When people ask me this I often think, "I already have started a family...". Also, there is such a huge host of reasons why a couple might not yet have children, that to put them on the spot, especially in public, about this delicate issue can really lead to folks feeling cornered. And irony of ironies, I have caught myself asking this very question, when it's one I squirm at! Lord help us!

2. I wish I could afford something like that. When someone is telling us about something they have purchased, or a vacation they are going on, or a lifestyle change, or whatever, let's stop saying, "wow, I wish I could afford [to do] that." While it may seem like a totally innocent comment, what we're actually doing is making someone feel awkward or guilty over their purchase, experience, or life decision, and giving a sense that they are being luxuroius, or just plain coveting in a way that is ungracious. Better to say, "wow, that is so exciting!" or "I am so happy for you!".

3. How do you find the time for that? As with any of these statements, this one could be said in an appropriate way, say if you were genuinely asking a sister about how she makes her schedule work because you want advice, but I find more often than not it's not the kindest thing to say to someone. And I am totally guilty of this one myself!! As someone who is trying to recover from too-busy syndrome, I have often looked at someone else's actions and said, "wow, I wish I had time for that", and verbalized it. The problem is that this can make someone feel as though they have to justify spending their time on something, and if I am honest with myself, I have often said this in a state of martyrdome, like, "I am so busy I could never find time for that, must be nice to have free time like you do!"

4. Wait until you get married/have kids/work full time/whatever. This is one that is used a lot and again, in a friendly and appropriate context, it can be just fine. But I find it is used, sadly, to discount others' experiences. For instance, if I am talking with a single girlfriend and she is telling me about how much housework she has and the struggle to get it done, and I say, "yeah, well just wait until you're married!" what I am really saying is, "Your experience isn't valid because it doesn't match mine and I think my lot in life is harder than yours." It really comes down to self-centred responses and speech, where instead of listening to the person and validating their thoughts, feelings, experiences, you are turning it back around to get attention to yourself. And as Christ-followers, this is not putting others before ourselves.

5. I've just been too busy. WOW! Am I GUILTY of this one! And don't get me wrong, I'm not saying there is never a time to say you're busy, it's the reality of life. But I think that more and more if we could really focus on what the Lord wants our priorties in life to be, and only feel obligated and dedicated to doing in a day/week/month/year, what the LORD would have us do, then we can be free from the feeling of obligation to use "I am/have been/will be to busy" as an excuse for not doing some task, because instead we can be free to say, "I am afraid I don't have/haven't had time in my schedule for that," which is more a statement of priortities and planning rather than an excuse for forgetting or not being a part of something we feel obligated to. In addition, when we keep telling people that are important in our lives, or who the Lord has placed in our path to invest into, that we are "So busy", and "too busy", they end up feeling guilty just for wanting to interact with us, or to ask us to do or be involved in anything. As servants of Christ and minister in His name, we have got to slow down, prioritize, and stop living in a constant state of business so we can be available to the Holy Spirit as He leads us.

6. Fat jokes. Let's stop telling fat jokes about ourselves, or saying little sideways comments about our looks and weight. If we're overweight and we really feel convicted about doing something about, then let's do it, and we can talk about that and the work we're doing on it, but let's stop making jokes or making comments that make people feel obligated to say, "oh stop! you aren't fat!" Similarly, let's stop saying, "oh, I'm being bad", when we get seconds at the buffet or potluck or dinner party, or "oh I shouldn't", when we are offered the tray of goodies at work/home/church, whatever. There's nothing wrong with eating food, and if we're eating it too much then we need to be real with the lord about that and take it seriously, and not just make off-handed remarks that ake people feel obligated to placate our guilt. Again, I am SUPER guilty on this one, ladies, I am preaching to myself more than anyone on this.

7. Criticising your spouse in front of others.
I'd love to say this one goes wihtout saying, but sad to say it does not. ladies, what our husbands need from us more than anything second to us being connected to Christ, is our respect. If we are making critical remarks or jokes at their expense, most especially in front of others, we are not portraying that we respect our husbands. Again, I am guilty of this because I'll make what I tell myself are little innocent jokes but can later on feel the Spirit reprimanding me, that even those little jokes could add up to hurt feelings or embarrassment for Caleb and for others having the perception that I don't respect my husband. Not to mention that if you get very critical, it's super awkward for the people you're with!

8. Gossip. This is a tough one, ladies, but let's face it: it's an issue for us. My working definition of gossip is anything I wouldn't want the person I'm talking about to hear me say. If I would feel awkward to find them standing behind me as I say it, I shouldn't be saying it. Now, that being said, there is a time for going to other believers or leaders in the church to help keep another believer accountable, but 1.) only after you have made an effort yourself to talk to the person, and 2.) only in complete truth and love. Talking about someone else's life just takes time away from your own. Plus, we're in sin when we gossip, plain and simple, so let's knock it off!

I think that's about it for now. What are your thoughts, ladies? What are some things that you believe need to be stricken from our volcabulary as Christian women? I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Anonymous said...

Nicole, that's some really good stuff in there, good enough to pirate in fact. I've caught myself saying almost all those things and then realizing what I was doing. I cringe to think of the many times I haven't even realized...Wonderful reminder

Mary H

Sarah D. said...

What an excellent post! Something I often remind myself not do to, and something you touched on in your writing, was to stop making quick judgments and/or assumptions. It is easy do and I feel it is expressed in comments such as "how can he afford that with his job?" and "They must have a lot of free time if they can XYZ..." If appropriate, I try to get the facts before I jump to a conclusion about someone's decision or action. And if the 'facts' are none of my business, then I remind myself to stop focusing on other people's behavior and work on improving my own!

Walking on Sunshine... said...

Wow that was great! I agree, the older I get I'm more and more careful about what I say. I hate when asking people how are they and they respond, "Oh, I'm hanging in there." I try to respond back to them, "Well I'm better than I deserve!" I love the one about critcizing hubby! We all need to be mindful of that one! Have a great day!

Armchair Housewife said...

Great insights, ladies, thank you. Sarah, I think the "they must have a lot of free time" one is the first cousin to "how do you find time for that"- it's another one we can be so quick to say, and you are dead right- it's a judgment. And we know what Jesus thinks about that...

Thanks ladies, good stuff!

OhLookADuck said...

You are so right about watching our speech. One down side though. My daughter was so concerned about being a stumbling block to anyone that she ended up being in total bondage of "the law" in her good intentions. It's still a matter of the heart, as always!

Great post, Nicole.


Armchair Housewife said...


You make a good point in that we always have to be Holy Spirit led.

And let me also say that i'm not talking about being so afraid of offending someone that you never speak up. Quite the contrary and that's a whole other post; I think we are so often remiss in being accountability for people in our lives, for lovingly bringing tough stuff up when we need to. But that's way different that the kind of self-seeking stuff I was referring to here.

I hope your daughter is out of that bondage now!


sunshine said...

Great post. It gave me quite a bit to think about... (as I am guilty of some of these..)