The other day my son, a smart preteen, was up to the challenge of washing the dishes. He didn’t give me an attitude when asked. He wasn’t disrespectful. He didn’t drag his feet. So why was I battling the urge to harshly point out how he was doing it all wrong?
Because he wasn’t doing it my way.
He started with the grimy pots, then moved to the plates and silverware. Finally, he had to bubble up more water to spit-shine the glasses. While working, he stacked plastic cups in a pyramid.
Irritation welled up. An unkind reaction was itching to come out. I could easily have let my mama mouth take over: It uses way more water to wash the dishes in that order. Plus the water is filthy now! Stop playing with those cups while you work. You’re so slow.
I wanted to be a control freak. I wanted to fire off the unkind words hidden in my unspoken thoughts.
The only way to do the dishes is my way. I see different as wrong. I interpret a preteen being a preteen — with a slight distraction of fun — as “slow.”
But any time I unload on Junior, or anyone, it has the potential to damage our relationship and plant seeds in his mind of his mom’s view of him, whether verbalized or implied (lazy, wasteful, distracted, and slow). It does not, as Proverbs 31:26 states, come close to resembling a woman who “opens her mouth with wisdom, and [speaks with] kindness on her tongue.”
It’s better if these scenarios go down differently. So let’s replay that scene with a Spirit-controlled response.
As I see my son doing the dishes, I can make a mental note to explain how to do it next time in a way that will save water, money, and time . I can praise his efforts, keeping in mind his age and abilities. I can acknowledge his unique method: I saw the clever way you stacked those dishes. You always make work fun.
I can ask myself questions that will help keep my mama mouth in check. Questions like:
Does it matter now or will it matter tomorrow? Will it affect eternity? Is God trying to teach me something? Can I pause and praise instead of interrupt and instigate? Is this really an issue that needs addressing? Am I being a control freak? Do I need to let it go?
The interaction wouldn’t damage; it would nurture. It would be wise. Kind. And there would be no lost time, regrets, or need to call in the United Nations peacekeeping forces for intervention.
This mama would be less control-freakish and more Proverbs 31 womanish. It might not come easily — trust me, it usually doesn’t — but with the Holy Spirit, it is possible to speak with kindness.
Dear Lord, may I purpose to temper my words with Your Holy Spirit as I interact with my family today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
My mouth can be a powerful tool of encouragement or a weapon of destruction.
Which of the questions posed in the devotion (Does it matter now or will it matter tomorrow? etc.) do you most need to ask yourself when tempted to over-control?
Think of an incident from the past where you did not use your words in a way that was kind or loving. Revisit the situation. How could you have spoken in a way that would honor God? Could you have used a different tone of voice? Word choice? Timing?