Big brown bear pacing in the sunlight at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

People who trust don’t throw tantrums

Why do people get so upset at each other? Have you noticed that happens a lot? More and more frequently it seems. A part of me understands it. Sometimes it takes harsh words to spur the indolent into action. Sometimes it takes threats to accomplish things when people just don’t care.

But are harsh words and threats really necessary?

I overheard someone losing their temper on the phone (yes, I guess this is the week for me listening into other people’s conversations), but I didn’t have to jump to any conclusions about what was happening. This was just out-and-out temper tantrum. Complete with cursing and whining and guilt trips and accusations.

And all I could think about as I listened to it was, “Thank God I don’t work with the public anymore.” I had more than my fair share of customers like that, the ones who blow up when they don’t get their way, the ones who throw a fit because their unrealistic expectations aren’t met.

In those situations, I’d bust my butt to make them happy. I’d go over and above and beyond and lots of other prepositional superlatives to help them have a pleasant experience. And most of the time, after they got their way, they’d admit to not being upset about it but that they were just playing the role so they wouldn’t have to face consequences for their actions.

And that’s not always the case. From the sounds of this conversation today, it was an unfortunate situation. The person on the phone screaming profanity every other word was the victim in the situation, but let me be the first to tell you from a customer service perspective, it doesn’t matter if you’re the victim or not. You come at me screaming profanity, and I just want you to stop talking.

But it got her what she wanted.

And what’s really sad? I know Christians who behave like this. People who claim to believe in Jesus, who follow Him, who love Him, act like children having a tantrum when they don’t think they’re being treated right.

Big brown bear pacing in the sunlight at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Big brown bear pacing in the sunlight at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Ephesians 4:29.

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.

I’ve gotten direct with people on the phone before. But I didn’t shout and scream. I didn’t curse and rant.

There’s something about screaming and carrying on that just wears people down. Getting loud with people just makes them want to give you what you want, so I think many people have gotten into the habit of getting loud when they don’t get their way or when they get their feelings hurt.

Just like a child in a toy aisle who doesn’t get what he wants.

But what does that do to you as a person? What kind of person does that turn you into? What kind of message does it send to the people around you? The ones who are unwittingly stuck next to you while you have your screaming, cussing conversation.

I guarantee, if you turn around and start trying to tell me about what church you go to, I’m not going to be interested. If you turn around and start telling me about how you love Jesus, I won’t believe you.

Now am I saying that we should let people walk all over us? No. There’s a time to stand up and be firm. There’s a time to put your foot down and demand justice, what’s fair. But just because you demand it—even if you legally demand it—that doesn’t guarantee you’ll get it. So what do you do when you don’t get your way? Do you throw a fit? Do you scream and shout until somebody gives you what you want?

Or do you sit back and let God keep His promises?

Maybe it’s God’s way of reminding you who’s in control. Maybe it’s God’s method of teaching you that your material things don’t matter. Maybe it’s God trying to help you understand that your way isn’t the best way.

If you really trust God, you won’t throw a tantrum. You may not be happy about it, but if you honestly trust Him, your world won’t come crashing down just because you didn’t get your way.

Think about it and consider that the next time things don’t go as planned. Believe me, you might not get your way, but you might change someone’s life.

And you’ll certainly be a more pleasant person to stand next to at the grocery store….

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My beautiful latte from Café Nero at Waverly Station, Edinburgh, Scotland

Kindness is more effective than meanness anyday

I was in Starbucks earlier this week, getting a coffee after a very long day. It hadn’t been a bad day necessarily; just crazy and stressful. And the cute little barista girl had this nutty bubbly personality. I thought she was just adorable, and as I was waiting for her to make my coffee, I noticed that she was wearing a set of earrings in the shape of the symbol for the Deathly Hallows. I’m sure they’ve been around for years, but I’d never seen a set like that before. So I told her how much I loved them, and she looked really surprised for a moment. And thanked me because she’d made them herself. She went back to making my coffee, and we continued chatting, just idle talk, and she told me as she handed my coffee over that she wished more people were like me–nice.

That kind of stuck with me (that and the fact that she also likes Doctor Who, which makes her awesome). She was a sweet, cute little barista. Why wouldn’t you be nice to her? But I guess people are people, and working with the public tends to teach you that. I remember the days working behind a counter, at the mercy of whichever customer got there first. And I guess I understand the concept of being rude and mean to make an impression, because it absolutely leaves an impression–it’s just not usually the impression you want to be remembered for.

Given the choice, wouldn’t you rather be remembered as the nice customer?

My beautiful latte from Café Nero at Waverly Station, Edinburgh, Scotland

My beautiful latte from Café Nero at Waverly Station, Edinburgh, Scotland

Today’s verse is Ephesians 4:29.

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.

This is something I think everyone struggles with, especially on bad days. Everyone has bad days. Everyone loses their cool. But I think this verse is talking about more than just the bad days. This verse is referring to a lifestyle. This is the way Christ-followers are supposed to behave. We’re not supposed to cut with our words; we’re supposed to build with our words. Everything we say should be encouraging and inspiring and helpful and kind. Now that doesn’t always mean that the people hearing it will respond in kind. They may get upset at us, but that’s up to them.

I can’t tell you how many times I have encountered unfriendly people who snap and bite and snarl because they want their way only to discover later that they are a professing Christian. That breaks my heart because as Christ followers we’re supposed to live a different kind of life. We’re supposed to know better than that. And I’m talking to myself here too because there are times when I get in a funk because my plans didn’t work out. There are times when I’ve gotten snappy with the lady on the other end of the telephone. But I hope I always try to be kind. I hope I always try to say good things. And when I don’t, I hope I always apologize.

Because there’s no disappointment like discovering a Christian behaving like that. Granted, just because we accept Christ doesn’t make us perfect. We’re still going to screw up, but our outlook should change. Our perspective should change. We shouldn’t use words and hurtful things to manipulate people anymore to get what we want; instead, we should trust that God will work things out the way He wants and it’s up to us to roll with the punches.

If you can walk into a place of business and be kind to everyone around you, you’ll be their biggest fan. I remember those customers when I worked at the WSU Library. I remember the ones who came in, who were kind, who were respectful, who were thoughtful and considerate. I remember them even now, and I haven’t worked there since 2006. But those people made me want to help them. Their kindness spurred me to do more for them than I needed to.

That’s what kindness does. It’s more effective than cruel manipulation any day, and it helps you build better relationships. And, what’s more, it helps you have a better day too.

So when you have the chance to get snappy today, don’t. When you’re faced with someone who you think is lazy and incompetent behind a counter and they’re not giving you the customer service you deserve, don’t get angry at them. Don’t take out your frustrations on them. You have no idea what’s going on in their lives. You have no idea what terrible troubles they’re facing right now. Be kind. Say something nice to them. Say something uplifting to them.

You’ll make their day, and I’m willing to bet that your day will probably get better too.

Sheep at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Hutchinson, KS

Words should be a gift

I love words. They’re my favorite topic of study, my favorite tools to use, my favorite everything. And it doesn’t matter what language either. Words are amazing no matter what language you speak. And one of the most awesome aspect of words is unfortunately also their most dangerous; Words have power.

At least, words have the power we give them. You’ve heard people say that words have weight, that words can cut, that words can bring life. It’s true. The things we choose to say will either help or hurt, and as Christ followers we need to be able to keep a hold of our mouths.

The cause of my foul language, Sheep at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Hutchinson, KS

The cause of my foul language, Sheep at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Hutchinson, KS

Today’s verse is Ephesians 4:29.

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.

When I was little, I thought this verse was talking about cursing. And I’m sure that cursing is one of those usages of words that isn’t really necessary, but I have realized something as I’ve worked with many international offices and people from other countries. You do realize that curse words aren’t the same from culture to culture, right? Words that are horribly offensive in American culture are just normal words elsewhere and vice versa. So you can’t point fingers at a handful of words and call them foul. No. You have to know what those words mean and understand their usage.

Some of the most hurtful words in our language aren’t curses. They are words used to tear other people down. They are negative words spoken by negative or insecure people in order to make themselves feel better at the expense of others around them. You can know someone who never curses but who is still foul and abusive because of the way they use their “good words” to hurt people.

All I’m saying is that we shouldn’t point fingers at curse words while we alter the heart of other words in order to damage people.

God gave us words so that we could be a blessing to people. Words are supposed to be a gift we give to others. Too often we twist them around and turn them into something they were never intended to be. People get hurt. Friendships get broken. Marriages are destroyed. Hearts are scarred. And that’s not why God gave us language.

So think about what you say before you say it. Check your attitude before you speak. Ask yourself if what you’re about to say will help someone or hurt someone? Consider what you’re about to say from every angle and weigh the consequences, because once you say it, you can’t take it back. Oh, yes, you can apologize for it, but that isn’t as good as not saying it to begin with.

If you’re going to say or write anything today, you’d better check this out.

Words are dangerous. They are powerful weapons that can build up or tear down people, organizations, families, companies, and relationships. And anyone who has the capability to wield words, spoken or written, has a great responsibility to use them in a way that is beneficial.

As a writer, I am always amazed at what words can do. English to me is one of the most fascinating languages in the world, mainly because it’s so weird. It has rules to follow that it only follows half the time. Its only standard of pronunciation is that there is no standard. Spelling is no less strange. And between denotation and connotation, it’s no wonder that native speakers have as much trouble understanding its depth and breadth as those who learn it later in life (those folks who have learned English as a second language, I applaud your efforts; it’s one of the hardest languages out there to learn to speak).

Anyone who speaks or writes, whether professionally or just for fun, should realize how powerful words are. In a single sentence–sometimes even a single word–you can either encourage or you can discourage. You can enrich or you can rob. You can heal or you can hurt. And before you wield the power of a word, you need to think it through very carefully.

In this modern age of Tweets and Facebook statuses and blogging and comment posting, people have become accustomed to writing or saying whatever they want whenever they want without the fear of repercussions. The Internet is the great equalizer, a source of anonymity where anyone can voice his or her opinion, no matter how hurtful, and have a captive audience.

That only means that today’s verse is truer than ever. Today’s verse is Ephesians 4:29.

29 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.

 As a Christ Follower who is also a writer, it’s my reponsibility to make sure that everything I write will be encouraging and enriching to others. Now, we need to make sure we understand what encouraging means there because it doesn’t mean to just say nice, sweet, feel-good things all the time. Encourage means to give someone courage. It means to tell the truth in love but not to pull punches when someone needs a good smack in the head.

The Amplified Version calls it speech that is “good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion.”

So I need to make sure that what I’m writing is true, first. And then I need to make sure that I’m presenting it in a way that will help people grow spiritually. I do believe that a blog is a good place to air out opinions, but at the same time just because I can use a blog as a place to say what I want to say doesn’t alleviate the responsibility I have to make sure what I’m writing is true and communicated in love.

But the responsibility to write and speak this way isn’t just for writers and speakers. It’s for everyone. Because everyone is going to speak today, and even those who don’t speak often are still going to write something. And in a culture where it’s so easy to be critical and even easier to say mean things to each other (even if they’re true), those who follow Christ need to live to a different standard. Even if what you have to say to others won’t make them happy, you can still communicate it in a way that is positive. If they take it negatively, that’s up to them, but you can still do your part and try to speak truth in love.

If it were impossible to do, God wouldn’t have told us to do it. Nothing is impossible with His help. Granted, that doesn’t mean it will be easy. And, boy, is it easy to say mean things. Easy and fulfilling sometimes, especially when someone else has been mean to you — but that road never pans out.

When you’re tempted to say or write something cruel, don’t. Say or write something encouraging instead. You never know where it might take you and you never know how you might help someone you didn’t even know was watching.