Take That Back
Do you remember when you were a kid and another kid maybe said something that hurt your feelings or teased you? I remember demanding them to, “Take that back!” As if they could. And whether forced into an apology by a parent or another adult, or genuinely given, the damage was done. Painful words resonate in our memories and they cannot be taken back. No matter how much we want them to be.
Why Would You Say That?
When I was in elementary school, there was a boy a couple of years older than me who just loved to pick on me. I have no idea why I was his target, I have theories now that I’m older but when I was in fourth grade, I had no clue what I’d done to this sixth grade boy to deserve his wrath. I remember thinking, “I don’t even know your name and you don’t even know me!” The mean things he said to me, I wanted him to take that back! I encountered the same thing in high school, (as so many do), with a group of girls who again, didn’t even know me or I them! Once more leaving me to wonder what I’d done to deserve their cruel words and threats of violence. I had been taught to ignore the behavior back in elementary school. Ignore them and they will stop. They didn’t. Afraid to tell because it would only increase the risk of further bullying and violence.
One of my daughters then became the victim of bullying in middle school. Painful words spoken that could never be taken back. Her father and I fought with the school board to no avail. They failed us and our daughter even with a ZERO Tolerance act in place. Still today, the effects of those words spoken to her linger. Have you ever encountered this? I’d venture to say at some point in your life, whether a classmate, a co-worker/boss, a parent, a teacher or spouse or from social media, you’ve experienced someone’s cruel words spoken into you that cut you so deep that you wished they could take them back.
Let Our Words
Why do we as humans find it easier to tear another person down rather than lift them up? What is it that we’re afraid of? That encouraging another will somehow minimize us but tearing them down builds us up? I don’t think there could be anything further from the truth! Personally, when I have taken the time and made the effort to encourage another, or offer kind words or even just a friendly hello, I actually feel better! I can encourage my own spirit by valuing another. Whereas I have found that when I’ve spoken an unkind word, whether “deserved” or not, no matter my “reason”, I feel like a wretch for potentially hurting another! Maybe you know what I’m talking about? That’s why I love this passage of scripture found in Ephesians; “And never let ugly or hateful words come from your mouth, but instead let your words become beautiful gifts that encourage others; do this by speaking words of grace to help them.” Ephesians 4:29 (TPT) Even if you’re unsure of what you believe about God or the Bible, please allow me to encourage you to recognize the wisdom in these words. How much better it is to give a beautiful gift of a kind word than speak ugly words that can destroy? What would you prefer to hear? Wouldn’t those within your sphere benefit from a beautiful, kind word spoken to them same as you would?
So, what to do?
How does offering encouragement to another help us when harsh words have been spoken to us and we want to demand, “Take that back!”? First, I have learned that I need to forgive those who have said cruel, hurtful things to me. My forgiving them doesn’t make what they did okay—it wasn’t— but it releases me from the pain inflicted. Second, I have to be intentional about speaking kind, life-giving words to others. When I can bring a smile, or a bit of encouragement to another, it’s like denying the enemy the ground he thought he’d gained. It’s almost impossible to offer a friendly word when we are filled with bitterness, or anger ourselves. As we read further in this chapter of Ephesians, it tells us; “Lay aside bitter words, temper tantrums, revenge, profanity, and insults. But instead be kind and affectionate toward one another. Has God graciously forgiven you? Then graciously forgive one another in the depths of Christ’s love.” Ephesians 4:31-32 (TPT) Why? So we may speak life to others and not end up saying something we wish we could take back! Because once a word is spoken, we cannot take that back!
The Ripple Effect
We can’t demand someone to take back hateful words, because they cannot be taken back, but we can work on forgiving them. We can begin with love because love covers a multitude of sins (1Peter 4:8). We have the power to shift the tide when we allow compassion and love to move us rather than our pain. The more we encourage others, maybe they will feel so lifted up, they will then in turn offer encouragement to someone who needs it and so on and so on. The ripple effect. And in the process, you will gladden your own spirit! We never know how our words may impact another, so let’s strive to speak life—even to ourselves — it has the power to overcome the darkness! Your kindness may be the only kindness someone experiences that day providing them a moment to treasure. So, who do you know that could use a word of encouragement today?
“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:29-32 (NLT)