Last week, I was looking forward to sharing an experience from my childhood with my 14-year-old son. We had the opportunity to get away, just the two of us, for a few days at our family’s lake cabin. We were planning to go on a boat ride, and I was very excited. Boat rides are my love language. Being at the lake restores my soul. It’s my favorite place on earth. I grew up there.
When we walked down to the dock and got in our boat, he told me he changed his mind. He wasn’t interested in going on a
boat ride. At all. I was so disappointed. Crushed. And I let him know it. I had been looking forward to the wind on my face, the sound of the boat splicing through the water, and being able to forget about the stresses of life for a few minutes.
When he told me he changed his mind, I was not “slow to speak or slow to anger”. Quite the opposite. My words crushed his spirit. I could see the pain I inflicted in his eyes the moment my words left my mouth. But it was too late. The words had already been spoken and there was no taking them back.
We spent the next hour silently avoiding each other. When he came into the kitchen, I looked up at him from the table and said, “Please come here, we need to talk.”
He told me that when I said I was disappointed, he thought I meant I was disappointed “in him”, and that’s what he heard and internalized. He thought I was disappointed in having him for a son, in his character, and that I wished he was different. That was the message that was playing over and over in his mind like a recorded message.
I apologized and told him I was not disappointed “in him”, that I was disappointed and let down at the situation. I asked him if he could forgive me, and he said “yes”. The next day, I checked in with him to see how he was feeling since our argument. He said it still bothered him a little. I asked if there was anything I could say or do to make things better. “No, I think it will just wear off in a day or two,” he said.
Our words carry so much weight.
They have the power to take root in our hearts and mind. They turn into attitudes and shape the way we think about ourselves and others. Words become like a compass directing our thoughts, feelings, and actions into adulthood.
I don’t want my words spoken in anger to play on repeat in my son’s mind. I want my words of encouragement, love, and acceptance to be the words he remembers.
Let’s ask the Holy Spirit each new day to help us be mindful of the weight of our words.
Erin Bishop is a writer, speaker, and Founder and Executive Director of the Whatever Girls Ministry. The Whatever Girls purpose is to empower girls, support moms, and inspire dads. Erin founded Whatever Girls as a preemptive strike for her daughter and her friends who were about to go to middle school, and was designed to encourage and equip teen girls and their moms as they navigated through their teen years. In Whatever Girls group meetings, mothers and daughters grow in their faith through Bible study, topical curriculum, talking about peer pressure, and girls are given strategies to pre-decide how to handle different scenarios when faced with peer pressure. Erin and her husband, Roger, their teenage son, Luke, and corgi puppy, Krypto, live in Eastern Washington. Their grown daughter, Grace, and son in law, Ryan, live in Western Washington. For more information about Erin and Whatever Girls visit: www.thewhatevergirls.com