Faith

Give me strength

Have you ever done Strengthsfinder? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it, even if only to use it to justify your individual quirks as qualities to be celebrated. My top five strengths read like this:

  1. Positivity
  2. Empathy
  3. Woo
  4. Achiever
  5. Activator

Sounds okay right? Well at first glance its pretty cool, I have always been a glass full kind of girl, happy-go-lucky, bubbly, and outgoing, so positivity wasn’t a huge surprise. Woo? Well lets face it what woman doesn’t know how to use charm to add gentle persuasion to a conversation. Achiever? Yep, I am the girl with the lists that only feels like she has a productive day if said list has at least three lines crossed through it. Activator? I have two children who are fed, dressed, watered and delivered to school (mostly) on time. Enough said.

But Empathy. Yep, that one smacks me right between the eyes every time.

You see, my other strengths are all forward thinking, go getting, lets-live-life-to-the-full kind of strengths. They require decision, motion, action, all of which my energetic caffeine fuelled self is happy to deliver – after at least one cup of the aforementioned coffee.

But empathy? Well that is an inward feeling, heart sinking, conversation stopping strength. Empathy is feeling another person’s hurt, disappointment, anger and betrayal as if it is your own. It stops you in your tracks and demands you to be still, to look at it, to touch it, to hold it, to feel it.

And some days I wish I didn’t.

Some days I wish I was unable to feel the incredibly cruel twist of fate suffered by my loved ones. Sometime I wish I could not feel the searing pain of a knife going through their back, I wish I could not sense the unbearable weight of grief placed upon their shoulders. Sometimes I wish the tears didn’t fall from my eyes as I watched them welling in the eyes of others. Sometime I wish I could be objective and offer practical solutions rather than stifling my own outrage.

But I can’t. Because that is not how I am wired. And if I couldn’t feel, then I wouldn’t be able to act out of my anger to see justice, I wouldn’t be able to cover the wounds of betrayal with soothing words, I wouldn’t be able to replace the heartache with healing love.

Even Jesus empathised. He wept with Mary and Martha over the death of Lazarus, He was moved when He met Jairus who begged Jesus to heal his dying daughter, He sensed the pain of the widow burying her only son.

And because of His empathy, Jesus acted.

Because He was hurting, He brought healing.

We are all given gifts, ‘strengths’ if you will, by God. Some of us are born leaders, able to strategise at the drop of a hat, some can teach, bringing a subject alive like no other, some can host, some can illustrate, some can manage, some can counsel…. the list is endless.

I love that I am positive, I hope that I am fun to be around, that I woo in the nicest way and that I encourage and equip others as well as myself. But I think that these strengths only seek to support my most challenging and yet my most rewarding element; empathy. I can only operate in my strengths because of the strength I find in Jesus, and in Him my positivity will help others to look on the bright side, my woo will persuade them to lift their eyes to the King, and my achiever and activator elements will encourage and equip them on their journey, holding their hand every step of the way.

R x

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Faith, Parenting

They are what you speak

I am so tired of hearing the phrase ‘He is a bad boy’ or ‘She is naughty girl’ bandied around the playground or toddler group.

Now, as a mother of particularly boisterous boys, who have been more than a little challenging at times, I am only too aware that sometimes our children do misbehave. But I have learnt (the hard way) that confirming negative behaviour to a child will only entrench the behaviour even deeper, as they start to believe what they are told about themselves. These fleeting comments, these seemingly harmless words fly through the atmosphere like arrows, piercing the open, soft hearts of impressionable small people who are looking to us to see how to handle situations, how to speak over people and, heartbreakingly, what to believe about themselves.

Children are NOT bad. They are NOT naughty.

Despite the cutting remarks or physical aggression, their behaviour is not malicious and is not a personal attack on you or others around you. Children are tiny human beings who are learning what is right and wrong and are pushing the boundaries socially and physically to discover what is OK, what is acceptable. And yes, at times they will make the wrong choice. They will choose to snatch that toy, to push that child, to hit that parent or answer back in the middle of the playground. These choices and the resulting behaviour exhibited is naughty, not the child, and I would encourage any parent, guardian or carer, myself included, to isolate the behaviour and condemn this not the child in question.

Furthermore friends, if it is not your child exhibiting the behaviour, please stop before you judge them or pass comment; that little boy lashing out may be struggling with separation from a father who left his mother six weeks ago, that little girl may have a poorly sibling who is requiring all mom and dad’s attention so she is acting out to get noticed by someone.

Our words have more power than we could ever realise. The Bible tells us that our words have the power to destroy and the power to save lives (Proverbs 12:6) and for anyone who has ever been criticised, put down or gossiped about, you will know that words can wound deeper than any sword. When someone casts a careless comment to a child, saying ‘You are a naughty girl’, ‘Why do you do that? What’s wrong with you?’ or ‘He is a nasty piece of work’, they are speaking into their little, impressionable minds, into their soft vulnerable hearts and dealing them the most hurtful blow that can stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Having done The Five Love Languages, I am aware that my top love language is words of affirmation, so for me, words have a lasting effect that can have immeasurable repercussions on my emotional and mental well being. I remember harsh words spoken about me or to me from a very young age as if it were yesterday, and the comments still cause me to question my image, my ability or my talent some twenty five years later.

God spoke the world into being with his words and as we are made in His image, we are responsible for the words we speak out into and over others. Jesus himself said; “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgement for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” Matthew 12:36-37

If you have guardianship or relationship with a child of any age, please, I urge you, be careful what you say to them, in front of them or around them. Children are like sponges that soak up all that flows in and around them, whether that is good or bad, positive or negative. Don’t fill their heads with your own judgements, doubts, fears or frustrations. Make sure the words you speak into them are full of praise, encouragement and gentle love-filled discipline that will build your child into a strong, secure man or woman in the future.

And perhaps most importantly, if you do speak harshly (which we all do) don’t forget to say you are sorry. The simplest way to undo an injustice on either side of the fence is the humble apology which has the power to right the wrongs and set you both free from a vicious cycle of word flinging. Modelling to your charges how you want them to conduct and handle their behaviour – good and bad – will set them up with a solid foundation on which to build positive, loving lives.

R x

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