We are taught as kids, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” And it makes sense, right? By repeating this mantra, mocking, jeering, and teasing are magically reduced to fairy dust and troll farts, never to harm you or another soul again.
The barrage of negative, condescending talk from others continues into our adult lives at work, home, and unfortunately even in the Church. And again “Sticks and Stones” runs through our minds, too childish to escape our lips.
But it’s a smokescreen. Why?
Because the words we say mean something. What is said to us and about us means something.
We build walls to keep people at a distance, but still the words cut. What was meant to be spell of protection from insult and injury becomes a mask. Words used as weapons slip past our defenses and we force a smile.
But it’s a ruse. Why?
Because the words we say mean something. What is said to us and about us means something.
And we too use those same harsh words at times. We relieve ourselves of responsibility by calling it sarcasm. Do you know what that word means? Is it something harsh, yet funny? No. The word means literally, “a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter jibe or taunt.”
But we’re “just saying,” right? Wrong. Why?
Because the words we say mean something. What we say to and about others, means something.
Is this a tongue lashing directed at you, my reader? Not intentionally. I wrote this for me, the guy who claims sarcasm as “just another service I offer free of charge.” It is for me when my wife Beth and I are exchanging words of disagreement or when I tease her in what I think is a playful manner. It’s for me when my kids disappoint me with their behavior (because God knows they couldn’t have learned it from me).
See, “In the beginning was the Word.” God didn’t wave a magic wand or splash enchanted dust to create the universe: He spoke. Maybe you are thinking, “But those were God’s words.” These are as well:
“The tongue has the power of life and death” Proverbs 18:21
“You will also declare a thing, and it will be established for you;” Job 22:28
“A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue breaks the spirit.” Proverbs 15:4
So let’s be mindful of what we say, remembering that, “Sticks and stones may break their bones, but careless words may wound their spirit.”
The kids and I worked in the garden today, and they all took turns watering our little vegetable sprouts. My instructions were clear: only water where the plants grow and not in between the rows where the weeds grow.
The kids were concerned that we hadn’t watered the garden good enough.
We came inside for ice cream cones and before long, the sky darkened and it began to rain. I said, “See, God’s watering it now, and he knows what he’s doing. However, we only watered our plants.”
Laila, our oldest and quick to wit, said, “Are you saying that we did a better job than God?”
I knew I was beat. Subconsciously I implied exactly that. But my spirit knew better and I replied, “No honey, I’m saying that God cares about the weeds too.”
A few weeks ago I gave a friend a ride to Rochester, which is about a three hour drive. No, acquaintance is more accurate, though I believe now we are friends.
See, there’s only a few things one can do when stuck in a car for a few hours with another individual. You can listen to the radio, talk, or sleep. If you know me at all my only option is to talk.
So talk we did.
It started with the small chit-chat, “How’s it going?” Blah. Blah. Blah. But before long we were sharing our history with each other.
My friend is a single guy, and I’m a fourteen-year marriage veteran with five kids (number six due in three months!). He started asking me how I liked marriage and family life. With each question he drew wisdom out of me like buckets of water from a well. I told an almost perfect stranger about past failures and victories few people know. Before long he was telling me his story and what God had done in his life to make him the man he is today.
It was powerful.
Do I think what I said will make a long-term difference in his life and how he someday treats his wife? I hope so. I hope he avoids some of the pitfalls I fell into and that he develops the type of relationship that love stories are written about. I may never know.
One thing I do know is that God accomplished something in us. This past Sunday Peter Hopper shared at our church about the power of our testimony. When we open our mouths to speak, not only is the other person strengthened but so are we. We are better men, better Christians today because of that talk. We shared our lives, our testimonies of how God has dealt kindly with us despite our transgressions and in doing so broke some of the lies of the devil in our lives–that we are alone and no one can understand our struggles or has overcome them.
And I know it can’t just be me. I believe there’s something deep inside us all that longs to be seen by others. To be known.
Sharing our story with others is part of that. Anyone can love the “good” us, the façade we put on display when we pretend that everything is OK and we are perfect (or at least better than “so and so”). One of love’s greatest powers is knowing the good and the bad about a person and still loving him despite his failures.
Answer that call deep inside you and share your story with someone today. Heck, share it here. Not only will it bring victory into your life, it will bring it to theirs as well.
Revelation 12:11 ” And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (ESV, emphasis added)
I know, you’re probably thinking, “How can ‘famous failures’ be motivational?”
It’s simple; because I’ve failed. Miserably. I’m writing a book and at times I just want to take my laptop and through it through the window. I repeatedly set writing goals and miss them.
But you know, I just can’t quit on it. There’s something that burns deep inside me to get the words on the page. I have a message buried in the marrow of my bones, and though it aches when I try to extract it, it must come out.
Our youth pastor Joe Gilchrist preached at church yesterday and shared a list of famous people who appeared to be complete failures before they found their way to success. And I loved it. Not in a morbid way where I said, “Ha! You suck too!” but where I could say, “Wow, they overcame so much more than I have to. With God’s strength, I can do this.”
So I found a video with some of these “famous failures” and I hope it motivates you to keep on keeping on.
I listen to a lot of teaching material and sermons at work. Many of these are from YouTube and the video plays in the background while I work (they are not a visible distraction). When I need to get up, I pause them, and I have noticed a trend.
Here are two screen captures that I took of recent YouTube teachings. One is a seminar by Jim Rohn, and incredible personal development guru. The other is a sermon at a church. Can you tell me which photo belongs to which teaching? (I blanked out their eyes for privacy)
If you couldn’t guess, the left picture is the sermon, the right is the seminar. There is a distinct difference in the two. In the sermon picture, the attendees are observing the teaching and committing it to mental memory.
The people attending the seminar are participating and writing down the information so they can go over it again later.
Given the different level of participation in the teachings, which group is more committed to the topic at hand?
Which would you say is the group simply hearing?
Which do you think are more likely act on the information they are receiving not just that day, but weeks, months, or years down the road?
Here’s a ditty by my man Eric Thomas, an incredible speaker and motivator talking about how people who really want to run after their dreams make them more important than everything, including sleep. I picked this one as a result of a comment by my friend Ron.
A hero of mine, Ray Bradbury, died yesterday (1920-2012).
I remember picking up “Something Wicked This Way Comes” for $0.75 from a used book store in Ottawa, Canada the Spring of 2010. Beth was there for business and I tagged along for the day and had time to burn. I opened to the Prologue and read, “First of all, it was October, a rare month for boys. But there be bad and good, as the pirates say.”
That’s all it took.
I devoured it over the next several hours, and many times since. It’s a restaurant I love to visit when I want something divine that melts in my mouth. And if I don’t have time for the full meal, I stop in and grab a paragraph for dessert knowing that wherever my finger lands on the page, it will be the sweetest.
The world is less bright today with him gone.
If you aren’t familiar with Bradbury, he has written such works as “Fahrenheit 451,” “The Martian Chronicles,” and my favorite book of all time, “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” I have read many books, hundreds, and his writing leaves me speechless every time I read it. The way he creates scenes with his words, meaning from his metaphors, and depth of character leaves me in awe.
And none of it is contrived because Bradbury loved.
He loved books and the words that made them. He loved people, butterflies, and even the things that scared him.
And he wrote these things.
Here is an interview with Ray Bradbury that I love to watch. Maybe in hearing him talk about what he loves, he will inspire you,
“Now, remember this: Love is at the center of your life. The things that you do should be things that you love, and things that you love should be things that you do.”
I stood on the dock and cast my line for at least the three hundredth time. Hours had past since my last bite and I’d almost lost interest in catching anything. It wasn’t bad to clean my limit of small mouth bass, but to clean just one sounded like work. My mind drifted to the novel I’d been working on for several years but could never quite find the time to write.
As I reeled in the line for the last time, I worked the bait with a slight jig. I felt a tug on the line. It wasn’t the staccato twitch of a nibble, but the slow easy pull of thick weeds. That’s where the monsters are. I saw my “weed fish” slowly surface and creep toward me like a stalking sea dinosaur. Something in it glimmered as the high sun reflected off it. I removed the inanimate beast from my line and extracted a small lamp from its belly. I wiped it clean of sea slime to see if it had any worth, and out came a genie!
“I will grant you one wish!” he proclaimed.
Not one to be without speech or opinion, I answered without hesitation, “I have a book I’ve been working on for years. I wish I could write like the pros!”
“Your wish is my command.” Smoke poured from his hands until it engulfed the entire dock. A hurricane force wind blew me backward. When the smoke cleared I found myself sitting at the desk in my office.
“That’s it? I’m a pro now?” I dried my wet hands on my jeans then placed them on the keyboard of my laptop and began to type. “The sun scorched Ernest through his sweat drenched shirt.” I paused, surprised at how freely the line came to me, then placed my fingers back on the keys.
I glared at the genie. “What’s the problem? I thought you were powerful. Where are the words? Why are they not coming to me?” I stood in disgust and headed for the door but was stopped short by a tug on my leg. I looked down. My leg was shackled to the desk.
“What’s this about? Am I a prisoner in my own home?”
“You wished to write like a pro, and you will. However, there is no magic that can accomplish this. You are bound to this desk every day until you have written for two hours. Only then will your shackles be loosed. Any time you stop writing, the will the clock will stop until all of the required time has been spent writing. And so it will be until you are, as you say, a “pro.”
“Wow. It sounds more like a prison sentence.”
“It was your wish. The good news is that once you are a pro, you will write four to six hours a day with no shackles. If I were you, I’d start writing.”
And with that, he vanished.
I am writing a novel, which is more work than anything I have ever done before. This short story was written when I realized what it would take to be a successful author. I hope you enjoyed it, and know that anything worth doing takes work. There is no easy way, even when you love it.