Monday, October 10, 2011

Oh Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say

When I was growing up, my mouth always got me in trouble. Whenever I was "grounded" it was often because of something I had said rather than something I had done. My mom used to always  tell me to think before I spoke but for some reason, my mouth was faster than my brain. I usually had some quick-witted, sarcastic comment on the tip of my tongue before my brain ever had a chance to compute what my mouth was saying. Apparently, this character flaw started at a very young age. I distinctly remember being in Allied's Department Store (whatever happened to Allied's?) in Claxton with my mom and Grandma. I tend to have an opinion about most things and I apparently had one about the shoes my mom was making me try on. I don't remember what I said, but I back-talked to my mom in the shoe department and my Grandma reached over and popped me right in the mouth, in front of everyone. I was instantly angry and embarrassed and not really very repentant but I apologized because, really, who wants to be popped in the mouth a second time? That memory has stuck with me and I often recall it when my mouth has been on the loose again.

Over the years, I've gained some control over my tongue and I've allowed my brain to catch up with my mouth. Notice, I said "some" control. There are still times when I unleash a verbal onslaught on some poor, unsuspecting person. It's usually my husband. Sorry, honey! My poor judgement in words often comes when I'm upset, angry, tired, or not feeling well. Something about emotional situations causes me to forget my brain again and let my mouth take control.

On top of all of this, my humor is often very sarcastic and sometimes mean. In my family, sarcasm and mocking are a common thing, especially at family gatherings. Most things aren't off limits either. I have been mocked mercilessly about something I wore, things I've said, ex-boyfriends, things I've done, etc. If we love you, you are fair game. Ryan had a hard time adjusting to this family dynamic because it wasn't something he was used to. In my family, it's when you're not being picked on that you should be worried.

In today's society there are multiple ways to communicate. So now, my brain has to not only be worried about what my mouth might say in a person-to-person conversation but about email, text messaging, social media, etc. All of these outlets provides opportunities to slip up, to say something potentially hurtful whether it's meant to be funny or not. Majority of people online today seem to use social media to air their "dirty laundry," to complain about someone or something, and to cause drama. I won't lie. There have been times when I've been tempted to do those same things. It's like there is this false sense of security with social media that makes you think you can say whatever you want without any real consequences. But the truth is, no matter where or how you say it, words are powerful. Whether or not they are meant in jesting or in a mean spirited way, words can be hurtful. Words can either build someone up or tear them down.

On Facebook today, I read a status update that made me sigh inwardly. This person has no clue that I've been struggling with this but I felt like she was talking to me. Her status said, "Be careful with your words. Once they're said, they can only be forgiven, not forgotten!" You see, social media got the best of me recently. What started out as an innocent, funny, "game" ended up with me taking it too far. What I only meant as a joke wasn't really perceived that way. Some of the comments I made were off the wall silly things but a few of them were about the person directly. Now, please understand that I hold no ill-will against this person whatsoever. I consider this person to be a friend. However, they may not know me well enough to understand my sense of humor. Most people think I'm a quite, reserved person but I'm really not. You just have to get to know me and for me to feel really comfortable around you before that side opens up. Again, social media opens up a whole new realm of false security that makes you think people really know you, when in most likelihood, they probably don't. So, I said a couple of things about the person that I thought they would "get" in this "game." The two things that I'm sure were the most offensive were only said because of two previous occasions when similar remarks were made, one by the actual person, and the other by me. Regardless, I should have allowed my brain to catch up with my mouth, or fingers in this case, to evaluate how what was being said would be taken or could be perceived.

Often, when my mouth gets away from me in my anger, it takes a while for me to feel remorseful about what I've said. I have to allow myself time to cool off and look at the situation with a clear head. But in a situation like this, where no harm was intended and I truly respect the person involved, remorse came instantly when I realized that the person may have been offended. It sat like a rock in my stomach while I went back and forth in my mind wondering how I had let my mouth get away from me again. I mean, I'm 28 years old for crying out loud, why is this still happening to me? I sent off a quick message to the person who said they were fine but even then I didn't feel right. I couldn't even go to sleep last night until I sent the person an apology. The truth is, I still don't feel good. I feel bad. I feel embarrassed. I feel like I did years ago when my Grandma popped me in my mouth in front of a store full of people. The only difference is, this time I am truly repentant.

The problem with words is that once they are said, you can't take them back no matter how bad you want to, whether you meant what you said or not. In this case, I didn't. As I was lying in bed last night, a couple of Bible verses kept coming to mind. One of them, I could only remember the last part and when I looked it up this morning, the verse was actually talking about deceiving a person but that last part still stuck with me, "Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, "I am only joking!" Proverbs 26:18-19. Even if you are joking, it doesn't make the words you say less hurtful. The other verse is Proverbs 18:21, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits."

I really hope that this is a lesson that I don't have to learn again, anytime soon. Words can be used for destruction or words can be used for building someone up. How will you use your words today?

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