Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths,
but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs,
that it may benefit those who listen.
I sat at my desk in my cabin under the Redwood tree, a month or so ago, with a plate of cookies fresh out of the oven, a pot of tea steaming, a lovely book by Sally Clarkson feeding my soul with truth.
She writes truth so full of grace, with infinite understanding. By the end of the book I’m sure we’re old friends. She mentors me across the miles in her hope-filled way of talking about life and relationships and disciplines and following Jesus fearlessly. She admonishes me to, “Own Your Life” and I want to, I will, I rise to her belief in me, and in all the women who read her words.
I want to read more, so I look her up in Goodreads. She’s written a long list of books about family and being and the value of motherhood. I’m intrigued. Why haven’t I ever heard of her before now?
I scroll down to the comments— reader’s takes on specific books. Someone named Traci was less than impressed and wants us to know why:
“I found myself…. skeptical that all the things that come up in family relationships and child-rearing could be solved with a cup of tea and a heart-to-heart, as seems to be suggested throughout the compounding list of what being a wholehearted mother entails.”
More words like “formulaic”, “overwhelmed”, “not relevant”, “insular”, “too much to swallow” convince me to steer clear. I don’t buy the book.
And then, this morning, with another pot of tea at my elbow, chocolate chip cookies hot out of the oven swiped from the plate I’m taking to Matt and Simona’s house this afternoon, I pick up her book again.
I like this woman, this writer of wisdom. Once again I look up more books by Sally (she doesn’t know me but I know her and she’s one of my dearest friends!)
This time, the reader’s comment simply saddens me. Maybe it’s because I just read these words by another writer I like:
“… I think we’re in danger of thinking that constantly evaluating and rating things is an innocuous practice. And I don’t think it is. I think that mindset is corrosive and dangerous over time.
I think it’s worth asking about what happens over time to your insides when you decide to be a hater… crusading for something or other.”
~Shauna Neiquist, in Savor
I grieve over a culture so intent on being heard that graciousness is lost in the facade of truth. A woman sitting at home, sure and certain that a writer she’s never met must be wrong because she doesn’t connect with metaphors that seem simplistic to her. And so she types out cutting words that sum up a message the author spent hundreds of hours crafting... as irrelevant. An entire book boiled down to “everything solved with a cup of tea and a heart-to-heart”.
What has happened to us? The Church, God’s people, the ones for whom Jesus prayed with such agony,
“I have given them the glory You gave Me,
that they may be one as We are one
— I in them, and You in Me—
so that they may be brought to complete unity.
Then the world will know that You sent Me
and have loved them even as You have loved Me.”
I grieve an emerging culture of criticism. With the advent of the Internet, what used to be whispered behind people’s backs (bad enough!) is now broadcast in bold print. Via blogs and tweets, podcasts and even sermons, Jesus’ followers are feeling unabashed freedom to blast each other mercilessly.
I grieve, not only for us, but for our children, who will grow up thinking such rabid critique is normal. I want to shake these free-speech exploiting criticizers by the shoulders and tell them what my little Matthew used to say to his older, arguing siblings:
Do’na be mean!
Instead of joining the lambasting with more of my own, I choose to believe in the power mothers have to change their worlds-- to change our world… one potential criticizer at a time.
1. The culture of the grace has to start in our homes.
When building up is practiced daily and tearing down is disciplined persistently, we create a culture in which truth and mercy blend into a safe place where children grow into adults who will lead their own generation with grace.
2. A culture of humility starts with mom.
When a mother learns to apologize sincerely for her own outburst instead of blaming her kids and husband for pushing her to the point of craziness, the whole family learns to accept responsibility for their own crabbiness—
Voila! Lessons learned by example are lessons learned for a lifetime.
3. A culture of mercy begins towards mom.
When mom turns mean because she’s frustrated and overworked and over worried and just plain exhausted… children have a chance to learn how to give mercy. Instead of rolling their eyes and muttering more meanness, children can learn how kindness and sweet words replenish even the most harried among us. Mothers aren't perfect. There are lessons to learn even in the midst of a mama-meltdown.
4. A culture of niceness-no-matter-what is best taught in the midst of real life.
There is power in a mama who ferociously guards her children from decimating each other with their words. A mother who disallows sarcasm and who doesn’t permit herself or her children to poke each other’s soft spots is raising a generation of leaders who will think twice before sending off a nasty email.
5. A culture of big-picture truth rather than jabbing pettiness can best be taught by moms.
Moms have a way of knowing their children and do well to help their children know and understand each other. Is it any wonder that the book of Proverbs so often pairs wisdom with understanding? A wise mama puts her child’s behavior in context to the brothers and sisters who are most bothered by it. In doing so, she has an influence on the way her children will grow up to handle people they don’t agree with. Nicely.
Isn’t it a radical thought that a band of determined Jesus following moms might have a chance to influence the next generation of leaders, talkers, bloggers, opinion makers— even politicians?!
Wouldn’t it be amazing if, indeed, Sally Clarkson is right? That a hot cup of tea and an understanding chat just might solve all most the problems of our world?
From a heart longing for a culture of kindness,
P. S. Okay moms, please speak up! I am loving hearing from mothers who are taking their roles seriously and changing the culture of their homes. Tell us how you’re managing meanness in your home. What words are working?