Words…

I came across a handout from Roberts University entitled, “Behind the Strengths Are Potential Weaknesses.”  

Each strength had a “potential weakness;” for instance, the strength, “Trusting,” had “Gullible” as the potential weakness. For “Persevering,” the weakness was “Stubborn.” “Smothering” was the potential weakness for “Caring.” The list had numerous words and pairings.

The list made me think about how some people can take our well-meaning words and turn them into something terrible. This happened to me a couple of years ago. Someone had taken my email out of context and accused me of demeaning her.

The incident made me realize that I had to read my words from the receiver’s perspective, but I also had to not take things out of context when I see people’s email or hear things that they might have said about me. I have to trust that what was written or said was not done out of spite.

This is how arguments are started—one person thinks the other said something hurtful, but instead of getting clarification, the person retaliates.

We are supposed to think of others as being “better than ourselves” (Philippians 2:3) so this means that we need to think the best about them—we can’t assume that they would intentionally hurt us, especially if they are a loved one or a close friend.

Before we started to communicate better, my husband and I would get in an argument because we took words and actions in the wrong way. For example, my husband would have a bad day and say something “snappy” and instead of me reacting in a positive way, I would snap back because I would take his words personally. This only escalated things.

Now when he has a bad day and says something “snappy,” I would ask him in a soft tone of voice, “What’s wrong? Is everything ok?” The Amplified Bible explains it this way, “Let your speech at all times be gracious (pleasant and winsome), seasoned [as it were] with salt, [so that you may never be at a loss] to know how you ought to answer anyone” (Colossians 4:6).

The point is, we need to believe that our loved one is “for us” instead of “against us”—we need to think of our loved ones in a positive way instead of a negative way. We have to believe that even when they “snap” at us, that they are not intending to hurt us, but that they are saying these things because they are hurt.

Romans 12:10, 17-18 says, “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other… Never pay back evil with more evil… Do all that you can to live in peace” (NLT).

Copyright © 2013 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

When I was a child…

I remember when I was about 3 years old, the neighbor’s little boy liked me (I think he was about 4 years old). One time he came over and knocked on the door to see if I wanted to play outside with him. I opened the door and said to him, “I only like boys who have black hair like my daddy,” then I shut the door.

When I think about that episode, I feel so badly for that little boy. Did he run home to his mother in tears? Was he emotionally crushed? There is a saying, “Out of the mouth of babes…,” meaning kids will say anything without considering the feelings of others— they can say things that might seem harsh or even “cruel” even though that is not their intention.

Some adults never grow out of this phase. They say things about people or to people without thinking about how their words will be received. The sad part is that some who do this are claiming to be Christians. The Bible is clear about how we should use our words: “Let your conversation be always full of grace…” (Colossians 4:6). In Hebrews 3:13 it says, “…encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today”…”

Before any words come out of our mouths, we should ask ourselves this question: “Will my words build up or tear down?” If it is to “tear down” someone then bite your tongue and keep silent. If it is meant to build the person up, then be sure you say it with love (“…speak the truth in love…,” Ephesians 4:15).

There’s no reason why anyone should say hurtful things about people or to say hurtful things about them “behind their backs.” Ephesians 4:29 and 31 reminds us, “…Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them… Get rid of all … harsh words…” (NLT).

It’s not always easy to keep quiet or to say helpful things. I find that when I am overly tired or when I haven’t been reading God’s Word like I should, then I am more likely to say things that I will regret, but that is not an excuse.

No matter how tired or spiritually dry I am, I still need to have self-control—I can’t just say anything that comes into my mind, especially with words that will hurt someone else: “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11). All of us have to grow up.

Copyright © 2013 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti

What is forgiveness?

When I first became a Christian I was perplexed by the Scripture verses in Matthew 18:21-22, ““Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”” (NLT).

I didn’t know for sure what was meant by “forgive someone”—does that mean we pretend that nothing ever happened? What if the person justified the actions and was not really sorry for what happened? Should I still forgive?

When I was 5-years-old, my older half-brother, age 15, started to molest me. He did this until I was about 7-years-old. My mother married my stepfather and he started to molest me when I was 9-years-old—this lasted until I was 13-years-old.

My half-brother and my stepfather never asked to be forgiven; in fact, my half-brother justified what he did—“brothers and sisters do these things.” How could I forgive that?

As I continued to read my Bible, I discovered another Scripture verse: “If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive” (Luke 17:3-4).

The words, “believer,” “repentance,” and “asks forgiveness” jumped out at me– these passages really didn’t apply to my situation.

Then I read Matthew 6:14-15, “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Does this mean that if I don’t forgive these two that God will not forgive me? But how could I forgive someone who didn’t even ask for forgiveness?

Ephesians 4:31 says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.” Even though there was no remorse from these two, I had to forgive them. To me, this meant I had to release the anger and hurt that I felt. If I held on to the anger then it would slowly kill me, and I wouldn’t be able to fully worship God because I would have this ugly thing between Him and me.

It wasn’t easy to forgive. It took many years of anguished prayers, but one day I realized that I no longer had anger or hurt. I knew then that God had healed me, and in my heart I had forgiven them. Maybe one day they will turn their lives over to God and He will forgive them too. God is good!

Copyright © 2013 Dr. M. Teresa Trascritti