Careless words hurt

We did not go to our church today. ‘Lil Adventurer is recovering from a nasty hornet sting he received yesterday morning, so the Handy Man stayed home with him. I was tempted to just stay home, too, but Dee, Gladys Mae and Curious George all piled into the car with me so we could go to our old church and visit. It was really nice to see some friendly faces we had not seen in a while. 

Gladys Mae has been growing….she has shot up at least an inch in the last few months. (She will soon overtake me!) All her pants are too short, and most of them are too tight. Today she wore a pair of high-heeled cork sandals, which, with her too-tight pants and unfortunate choice of T-shirt, was just a little on the immodest side. I reminded her of the camisole rule–if it is a low shirt, it needs a camisole. She had one on–the straps are stretched out and one strap  is broken. The shirt had Marilyn Monroe on it. Maybe not prime material for church, and not evil in and of itself….but with those tight pants and high-heeled sandals…well, you get the idea. Sigh.

 I am a recovering perfectionist and legalist, and I have tried to give my daughters some lee-way to dress. And, yes,  I am sensitive to how my children look.  I don’t want them to be immodest, but neither do they have to look like they are Amish.  I am a work in progress when it comes to allowing them to be them and not allowing their appearance to dictate how I feel about myself as a mother.  I am successful, for the most part, at allowing that freedom while still enforcing our boundaries.

Until a careless word is spoken by a good friend.

A friend–one whom I know to be “on my side”, one whose opinions I do value, one whom I love–said that she thought my Gladys Mae was “advertising”.  I could bear that–in some respects, I agree….if I had caught her appearance before she slid into the car as I was about to leave, I would have made her change.  It was the comment that followed that stung. “If you aren’t careful, you will have two pregnant daughters on your hands.”  Wow. Maybe she meant it as a joke, but I did not find it funny. It stung. It felt like an attack on my parenting. It felt like she was judging the content of my daughter’s heart based on her appearance. i guess it felt that way because, well, she was.  Judging, that is. 

When Dee came home and broke our hearts with the news of her very unplanned pregnancy, part of me thought about how I would be judged. I think I got over that fairly quickly—after all, her pregnancy is NOT about me.  Dee has had to make some tough choices. She has had to think through her decisions. I am so thankful she chose LIFE for her baby!  The circumstances are not ideal, but I believe in a sovereign God who has a purpose and a plan for this child’s life. A teenage pregnancy is not actually the end of the world. Don’t misunderstand…I am not advocating it as a habit or as ideal.  I want all my children to go into their marriages whole and pure and undefiled. But that must also be their choice.  We have done the best we can to talk to them frankly about these issues, to try to help them understand the temptations out there, to equip them for life.  One of those discussions was making sure my children know that they can ALWAYS come to us, that our love for them is unconditional, that no matter how badly they might have messed up, we are here for them and love them. Dee came to us within days of learning her news. I think we succeeded in that last part. 

What stings is the idea that someone can judge the content of my children’s hearts based on circumstances or dress. I recently saw a video where Ray Comfort was witnessing to a man. The man did not “look” like a Christian. He had a bone through his nose, his face, neck and arms were covered in tattoos…..he did not appear to be your average Christian. And yet, it became clear as the conversation went on that the man did indeed have a relationship with the Lord. I am sure he was used to being judged. But his point was that he was able to witness to people Ray Comfort could never reach. He said most of his radical appearance had been acquired before he knew the Lord, but it was now a tool to reach folks for the Lord.   

Dee will face criticism from well-meaning people who disagree with her decision to keep her baby. People have voiced their disagreement with me over how we have handled the situation….even my sister, whom I love and who I know loves me. She called me the next day to apologize. Her intention was not to hurt me, nor to judge me, and in her sensitivity, she realized she had come across as doing both. I had already made the decision to assume that she wanted the best for me and that her questions came from love and concern, and not ill-will. It was easy to forgive her and to move on. 

It is when people make comments the way my friend did–comments that they have no idea have stung so badly–that I am at a loss as to what to do. Do I confront my friend? Do I ignore her comment and try to assume that she really cares and that is why she is trying to warn me. Either way, I will forgive her.  Today, my challenge is to not let her words sting more than they should, to not allow her words pin-prick their way into my already sensitive wounds of feeling inadequate as a parent, and most of all, to actively think about my friend’s character and the fact that she does love me. 

Careless words can really hurt. Whether you have said them (and I have said so many!) or someone else has said them to you, the wounds they leave are real. Lately my children have felt safe enough to bring up things I said and did in the past–careless words spoken when I cared more about what other people thought about me than I did about pleasing God–and I have had the opportunity to sincerely apologize and ask for forgiveness. I am thankful that my children have trusted me with the information of how my careless words wounded them. I cannot take back my careless words. I can only repent, ask for forgiveness, and walk forward in such a way as to pay closer attention to my words. 

It is my prayer that all of those who call themselves Christian would do the same.  We must be careful of our words. We must be careful of how we judge. We cannot and must not assume we know the content of someone’s heart by how they look. Tough lessons for this mama to learn. 

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