I went to an average elementary school when I was younger. As is the case with average elementary schools, it came with dorky kids, cool kids, mean kids, smart kids, poor kids, rich kids, and so on. I was lucky enough to fall safely somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. There was one girl in particular that was not so fortunate. She was quiet and shy, wore the same out-grown clothes each day and bottle-thick glasses, and had very few friends. People were so mean to her, myself included. I like to think I was kinder than the average bully making fun and throwing insults, but I was just as guilty of isolating her as anyone else. Whenever we had to form groups or team up in partners, she was always left alone. I didn’t personally have anything against her; it was all just a matter of saving face in front of the other kids. Reputation was more important than her feelings.
There was one day before school when everyone was waiting outside their classes for the bell to ring. I was sitting on a short wooden wall when I noticed her walking up in a new outfit. I remember it clear as day, and I have no idea why. She had new black jeans that actually reached to her feet, and a green t-shirt with Tweety on it. I’m not sure what led my third grade mind to abandon all cares of reputation, maybe God’s silent nudging. I got up off my wall, walked over to where she was standing alone, and told her I really liked her new shirt. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the smile she gave me right then.
Last week I signed onto my Facebook account, and she had left me a message. She also remembers that moment clear as day, and wanted to thank me for my kind words. 15 years later.
When I was in 7th grade I was as insecure as any 7th grader. I liked boys, but unfortunately boys didn’t seem to like me. There was one boy in particular that I fancied in my junior high way. After much gawking from afar and giggling with my friends, I worked up the courage to ask him out. Not by myself, of course (that’s way more courage than any 12-year-old girl has). No, I had my two best friends ask him for me. Over the phone. While I secretly listened in on another line. Courage at it’s finest. The conversation went as follows:
Friend: So you know my friend?
Friend: What do you think of her?
Boy: Like, is she cute?
Friend: Yeah, would you want to go out with her?
>faint laughing on his end<
Boy: Um, no. Not even a chance. I would rather kiss Freddie Krueger.
I remember that moment, clear as day. 10 years later.
I think most anyone can say that they’ve been in every corner; the giving end of a kind word, the receiving end of a compliment, the insult thrower, or the butt of a cruel joke. Some of us are more resilient than others, letting things roll off our backs. Others of us are sensitive and absorb every word.
Recent events in my life have opened my eyes to the power of our words. They have the ability warm the spirit, for 15 years…or to bruise one’s ego for a lifetime. They can tear down, humiliate, and destroy reputations. They can lift up, encourage, and carry someone through the darkest season. There is no weapon or tool God gave us more powerful than our tongues.
Today I’ve decided to make this a major area of focus for myself. Not only that I guard my tongue, but that I learn to utilize it for the good it is capable of. Without the latter, we are missing out on an incredible gift.