Talk less. Love more.

talk less

“How many kids do you have?” His eyes flickered from the twins in their double stroller to Simon, standing beside me. “Three?”

I smiled, bracing myself. “Nope. Five.”

“FIVE?” He whistled and passed a hand through his hair. “Five. Wow. I’m so sorry.”

If your mouth just fell open a little at random-racquetball-dude-at-the-gym’s comment, I totally understand. A year ago, mine would have done the same.

But this was not my first rodeo. So, without hesitation, I said, “Don’t be sorry! I’m not. God has blessed us ridiculously by giving us five kids. We love it and wouldn’t have it any other way.”

He didn’t quit while he was only a couple of miles behind. Oh no. Then he said: “Are you gonna have…MORE?”

Some day…maybe, just maybe…I’ll say what I’m really thinking when I get asked this. Which is, of course, “Well, I don’t know, random person. I can’t see how this could possibly be any business of yours, but while we’re here, I suppose we could have a nice long discussion of our reproductive plans for the future. You first.”

I didn’t say that, though. Instead, I smiled brightly and said, “We just might!”

And witnessed a mind completely blown.

When I told my husband what he said and then what I’d offered in return, Shaun nodded and said, “Good for you.” And then went about his business. Because he’s pretty used to these stories by now.

People.

Seriously.

Forget just kids. PEOPLE say the darndest things. The rudest, dumbest, most insensitive things, y’all.

Like the time this girl told a father of only one that she thought his job was harder than hers (with her several kids) because his daughter had no one to play with. Because, clearly he was no one.

Oh wait. That was me.

I was actually trying to be nice because the single-daughter daddy had just expressed his feelings of inadequacy at taking care of one child, much less five. But my words were still careless and easily misconstrued, and it was clear from his offended expression that he’d interpreted them in the worst way possible.

And that’s probably only the tip of the Titanic-sinking iceberg of potentially hurtful things I’ve said in the last year.

That’s just one that I remember. I cringe to think of the many I don’t recall but which the recipients do.

Because we always remember the harsh things we hear so much better than the ones we say, don’t we?

I haven’t forgotten something negative a family member once said to me about my mothering skills. I almost never think about it, and it doesn’t hurt like it did at the time, but it’s still there.

I’m pretty sure whoever came up with that whole, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” business was delusional. And lived in a sound-proof bubble. Me, I’d rather be walloped with a pretty big stick than overhear you saying ugly things about me. The bruise will heal. My bones will set. But that word-wound in my heart can fester. It could even leave a permanent scar if I’m not careful. 

Not that I do or should let the offhand remarks of strangers affect me like that. I felt zero anger or indignation, even, towards gym-guy (except that, seriously, dude, my kids are standing right here, and they hear really well and are far from dumb).

Still, I’ll bet you know the phrase that I’ll associate with him whenever we cross paths at the gym. Yup. “I’m. so. sorry.”

I would feel a bit neurotic admitting just how strongly words can affect me, except that I know—as in, KNOW—that I’m not alone. I’ve seen friendships flourish or crumble, based on a few choice words (either good or bad). I’ve watched people rise to great heights of joy and plummet to great depths of sadness upon receiving praise or censure from others.

And I’ve felt many of those things myself. James 3:5 says: “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!”

I don’t want to be too thin-skinned, but I do feel less like a drama-queen for the times I get my undies in a twist over a hurtful phrase or two when I hear the tongue’s work literally being compared to a forest fire.

Here’s the thing: I’m a lousy firefighter. I dislike having to try to throw water and blankets on a fire I started. And I’d much rather not have to apply healing salve to a burn wound I caused. It’s embarrassing and so. much. work. (Although completely worth it if it comes to that).

So, this year, as part of my desire to keep Christmas in my heart, I’m resolved to talk less and love more.  To get over my compulsive need to make sure that I get my oar in and my opinion is known. To listen like someone’s life depends on it because a verse like, “life and death are in the power of the tongue,” tells me that it pretty well does.

So, what does that look like? Well, practically speaking, I have two suggestions…for me…for all of us:

Step 1: When you (I) have something to say, stop a moment and ask yourself if it’s something you would want said to you or something that needs to be said at all.

and

Step 2:  When someone says something you (I) don’t want to hear, don’t immediately assume they’re trying to be rude. They probably just didn’t ever get to Step 1.

Talk less. Love More.

I think if I can just follow my own advice, there will be a lot fewer forest fires in my neck of the woods this year.

(You know Smoky the Bear would agree with me).

P.S. This post is not about those well-thought-out/prayed-over hard conversations you know you have to have even if you don’t want to, and I am in no way advocating shying away from truth if it needs to be said.

12 thoughts on “Talk less. Love more.

  1. I try to go with the belief that people are good and that they have a good heart. I honestly believe that most people don’t say things to offend you on purpose. How could a stranger know your hurt, pain, or anxieties? Do you wear it / them on your sleeve for all to see? I find it best just to giggle, smile, and move on.

  2. Abbie, a friend referred me to your blog the other day after finding out we were pregnant with our 5th child. She said, “YOU NEED TO READ THIS.” I realized, the only thing keeping me from being 100% joyful about finding out was…get this…the fear of man and what “people” would say. GOD said it was good! GOD said this was another heart to love Him. I was excited. But then the nagging comments people make entered my mind and I became nervous…til your post here. (I loved your “YOU FIRST.” idea. LOL.)
    It was so refreshing to see this and to realize someone else felt the way I did. I hope you don’t mind, but on my own blog I placed a link to your site to that post. Then, just today, I announced to my readers that we are expecting. I’m giddy. Telling everyone has been easier, especially with your advice! Thank you for thinking about it then blogging about it! Since then, I’ve enjoyed tinkering around your blog and have become a “follower”. Sincerely, Brandi @ http://www.thatsthebranditalking.com

  3. I’m writing this in my journal. Beautifully said. I read once it takes three positive things said to negate one negative. That gives you an idea how hard words are on us. And maybe you have but look up active listening. Fascinating stuff that will really help you with talking less, listening more.

  4. Thanks for this. My focus this year is to love others more, specifically the opposite of 1 John 2:9-11 “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not wither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.”

    I want to love my “brother” rather than walk in darkness. Loving others takes effort but no more effort than Christ gave to love us.

  5. Such a wonderful post! I Need to read this everyday! I am sharing with a sweet friend who just found out she is pregnant with #5. She will have 9yo, 7yo and 3 kids under 3. She is worried about what people will say but is determined to not let the fear of man steal her joy ;). Don’t you have a post where you talked about what people say to the # of kids you have & most of the time they are just trying to make conversation & are not trying to be hurtful?? I thought I read that here? I’d love to send a link to my sweet friend. Thanks for the encouragement today! This is just what our pastor talked about in church 😉

  6. The only thing I think when I read these posts is that perhaps you are a little too sensitive. Don’t let the comments get to you. I have six children and believe that its Gods decision how many kids we are blessed with. Believe me.. I have heard all the comments there is to hear. I also came from a family of nine so i’ve heard them all my life. I actually have to chuckle at peoples stupidity but it doesn’t get to me. I often wonder why they care how many kids we have. They do not have to take care of them so what difference does it make to them. Some of my own family that doesn’t have the same beliefs as I do like to make comments and continually ask if I am pregnant again. or better yet, how many kids do you have? Just let it go..

  7. Great post, and something that really hits home! Fertility conversations in particular are very frustrating for me, as my husband and I have been unable to get pregnant for a few years (but are now pregnant, praise God!). People assume we don’t have children yet by choice, and always commend us for “being smart and waiting to have kids”, when, if it were up to us, we’d have several children by now! Comments like that aren’t meant to hurt, but they do. I’ve learned that when it comes to fertility in particular, it is best to just not say anything.

    I also wanted to let you know that I think you have a beautiful family, and I thank God for the encouragement you’ve given me through this blog.

I love hearing from you guys!