As I’ve said before, this series is a bit of a glimpse into the journey that I’m on- hopefully it may speak to your heart in some way wherever you are. I’m always such a work in progress (and always will be), and it’s so interesting to me to see the ways that God teaches me, and reveals to me the things that I need to work on in myself.
A couple of months ago on my blog, I shared about our family’s choice to homeschool our 1st grader this year, and what an unbelievable response I’ve gotten to that post. Even months after the post, folks continue to write me about it. Most have been utterly encouraging- what support, what affirmation! Even from people who admit that they wouldn’t necessarily make the same choice, or who don’t necessarily understand what homeschooling looks like, have still come out of the woodwork with encouragement for my husband and I to follow our hearts, and to continue making choices that we feel are best for our family- even if they aren’t the most popular choice. Simple words like “You’re a great mom.”, “Awesome job!”, “You can do it!” – what encouragement for any parent!
I did receive a few emails of a different nature as well. I suppose I expected it. The internet can have such a vast reach, that a mixed response was inevitable, but what a tangible effect that negativity can have. I really had to work to tune it out and to keep my focus on what I know I am called to do for my family. Just a couple of weeks ago I received a lengthy email from someone I’ve never met, but who reads my blog, and who decided to share with me that she “feels so sorry” for my children, that I am “ruining them”, that I’m “a bad mother.”
I don’t share this with you to elicit sympathy or outrage. I’m on solid ground and I know better. I share this to make the point that our words matter. And just because we may write them somewhat anonymously, hidden behind the glow of our screens, doesn’t mean they don’t have an impact that’s just as powerful as if we were standing face to face. Our words can be seeds that plant deep in the hearts and minds of others. Our words can lift someone up, and give them that hug or high five that they might just need that day. They can be gifts- fuel in our tanks to help keep us going, day in and day out, or they can do the opposite. Our words can tear someone down. They can make someone feel immeasurable doubt, failure, judgement, confusion- and perhaps at just the time that they’re most vulnerable. Our words can literally become that nagging voice in the back of someone’s mind, whispering lies of defeat and ruin.
I shared about this one particularly negative email with a friend, and she had some really great words for me. She said, you know, we’re all in this, and we’re all trying to do what we think is best for our kids, wherever we are in our journey. Perhaps this person had forgotten…parenting is HARD. There’s no magical recipe, no easy 1-2-3 guide to perfect kids, and a perfect family. There just isn’t. We have to rely on our own judgement and faith, staying as true to those as we possibly can, in the hopes of raising children with solid core values, who make good choices, and who are a light in what is so often such a dark world. It’s a huge, huge responsibility, and the deeper I am in it, the more I see just how much encouragement matters. I need it. You need it. I think we all just need a little bit of a grace, a pat on the back, and some loving kindness. We will make mistakes, and we will have triumphs, and we will inevitably make different choices from one another. I don’t think the key lies in choosing the most ergonomic stroller, or sending our kids to the most expensive or highly ranked schools…it’s about loving them and doing our best. I’m not the best mom in the world, and I make mistakes every single day, but I love my kids, and I do the best that I can to make the choices that I think are best for them. I think most parents are in the same boat- doing the best they can with what they have for their family, and I think it’s safe to say that we could all use a little less critiquing and a whole lot more cheerleading.
This situation really got me feeling convicted about my own words, and want to take this month to put more focus on what I’m sending out to others. Goodness knows I have a mouth on me (my husband will attest to that!), so my prayer this month is that I might put a stronger filter on it. Think first. Speak second. Before I write an email, before I send a text, before I say something, to consider a few things:
- Will these words encourage this person?
- Will these words show love?
- Will these words set an example for my children?
- Are these words that I’m proud of, and can stand behind?
- Are these words likely to stir up joy, peace, strength? Or the opposite?
I realise that you may not share my Christian faith, but please allow me to share a few scriptures that I think really get to the heart of this idea, and that I find inspiring and helpful:
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. Proverbs 12:25
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
What a big challenge this month! I’m excited to dive into this in my quiet time and to stay prayerful and open about how I can grow in this area. I hope you’ll join me! If you have a comment, idea, or story, please share it (um, as long as it’s encouraging- ha!).