We are often taught as children (or teach our own) that words cannot hurt us. Perhaps in a day and age where communication was limited, and walking away truly ended the conversation, this phrase held to be more true. But we live in a world of constant and immediate communication. As powerful as words can be in a face-to-face exchange or novel, our online, every day statements have gained that power without us even realizing it.
The important of communicating (written, spoken, shared) with gracious words has become more important in our interwoven, over-connected community. A rant that would have been previously shared with a trusted confident is now posted to Facebook, with little regard to who may actually be reading it. The seeming lack of autonomy over our posts, after all, we didn't say anything enables us to be more bold, more brash, more hurtful than we would in person. This lack of accountability enables us to comment on the posts of complete strangers with judgment. Because we have an opinion, we are entitled to share it.
Friends, I caution you to temper your words with a Proverb. Remember that gracious words are good for us, body and soul. And not just us, but those around us. We are given so much influence with our words, whether online or out and about. The young mother in the store does not need to be scolded for her children's behavior nor does the older man needed to be told why his political beliefs are wrong. The words we speak should nurture those around us.
This does not mean avoid the difficult conversations. I don't think anyone would accuse Dr. King of not nurturing those around him, despite making some feel uncomfortable. Nor would I accuse our own God's Son of speaking without grace despite how many He unsettled with is message. But we are called to speak kind words to those around us. Like the honey in the comb, we should slow ourselves down and savor our words before we speak them. Is this what God calls us to say in this situation? Are we speaking from a dark place, where those Seven Deadly Sins lie, a place of anger or perhaps envy? Or are we speaking from a place of light and love, filled with patience and temperance?
As we go forward into the week, try to speak with slow, sweet purpose, a purpose that will encourage those around us rather than tear them down.
The last of our seven virtues, kindness, may seem like an odd one to pair with envy. But kindness for kindness's sake is the only selfless virtue that could possibly help us to avoid our selfish, jealous tendencies. Remember the envy itself is not the sin, it is the actions in reaction to the feeling. This makes kindness, an intentional decision rather than a unintentional reaction, its perfect opposite.
At the root of kindness is charity, love, compassion, and friendship for friendship's sake. This means that when we are kind we are charitable to those around us. We love our neighbors freely, not expecting anything in return. We are compassionate to those different than us, we see past the differences and see the beautiful, human soul inside them; we call them brother or sister in Christ, regardless if they believe as we do. Our relationships are pure, they come from a sincere desire to foster a loving, healthy relationship with the other. It is not a competition between the two of us. We build one another up and cheer one another on.
We are called to be many things in our faith. Faithful, loving, prayerful. Kind is something we are rarely reminded of. But kindness is so integral to living that Christian faith we hope to live. No prophet would be successful without receiving the kindness of others and extending kindness. We cannot bring others to God if we cannot be kind to those around. After all, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Even more importantly, acts of kindness are the roots for the works of mercy we are called to do. Feeding the hungry, visiting those in prison, these actions must come from a place of kindness for them to be a true act of marriage.
Tomorrow is a day of Thanksgiving; take the day to reflect on your blessings, your successes, and your failures. This Sunday is the first day of a new liturgical year. Don't wait for January 1st to start fresh; why not this Sunday. Take time to reflect on the seven sins, how have you fallen to victim them? Do you have the seven virtues in your life? Conclude your reflection with the Sacrament of Reconciliation to start your new church year.
Happy Thanksgiving and tota tua.