Monday, April 16, 2012

Keeping My Mouth Shut

I have to laugh sometimes at what I find through social networking sites. Sometimes, while not intending to be profound, these little "ditties" can prove to be not only useful but eye opening-ly profound. Here is one that I have encountered before (and ran across again today) and seems particularly appropo.

People have often remarked to me that I am easy to talk to, a good listener, a good judge of character, they feeling like they've known me all their lives etc. Perhaps I've been very good about listening more and talking less out of habit because I tend to be a bit of a wall flower in social situations. Not that I'm uncomfortable around others, just didn't want to open my mouth and seem to chew on more shoe leather than wisdom. Unfortunately, I've not always employed that philosophy at home with my children as often as I should have. You see, I'm a fixer. Being nurturing, I play mediator a lot, discuss the situation, what ever it is, openly and honestly with my family and try to help find a remedy for a situation or something uncomfortable.

I have also tended to let my mouth get the best of me sometimes when I feel attacked unjustly. Rather than simply listening, I'll let something fly out of my mouth from my head and not always my heart. This is not a good method of survival, communication or nurturing anything, let alone helping my children find their own way with a good attitude, love in their heart and on their lips. Nor is it a way to allow God to help you or them find the right words. My Daddy used to say, "It is better to be quiet and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." He attributed Abraham Lincoln with this quote, but I have since learned that it is truly paraphrased from Proverbs 17:28 which reads, "Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding."

I have, too often, opened my mouth. Unfortunately when you keep your mouth open and your ears half open, the result can be misunderstanding, hurt feelings, closed pathways of communication and can be disastrous for one or all parties in the end. Recently one of my older sons came to me with some questions, concerns, frustrations and feelings. I listened alright, but went right into "Well, maybe if you did this, then this would happen." Which of course brought out more frustrations, defensive postures and finally, "Mom, have you ever thought that maybe I really didn't want advice, I just wanted someone to listen?"

Can you say, "Ouch!" and "Wow!" I've thought a lot about these phrases alot. Both from Abraham Lincoln, King Solomon, my daddy and my children's responses to my opening my mouth to quickly. I decided I needed to make a concerted effort to listen more and talk a LOT less. Today it paid off in a major way.

We all know our children waste no opportunity to establish some sort of control or power when they begin learning to be more independent. It is a struggle to say the least when they want to yell at you, speak harshly and rudely and be downright accusatory. Today, in a parent teacher conference, while the teacher was very complimentary, it was determined that some changes need to be made to a certain 11 year old's behavior that will enable him to be even more successful in school and in the future than that which he is exhibiting of late. When they dig their heels in and do not want to do something, the whole world can go out in a ball of flame before they will give in and change. The result can be disastrous if we, as parents or caregivers, react as they do. It's so hard to not raise our voices, be unkind in return, send them into time out for being disrespectful or exact another punishment. I have, more often than not, reacted b-a-d-l-y. While in the midst of trying to help him learn how to do a particular homework assignment, he just knuckled down, dug in his feet and refused to budge. "I don't know how and I don't CARE MOM!" He was nasty, rude, disrespectful and horrid. So badly I wanted to lose it just like he did to show him just what he looks like/sounds like and give him the same disrespect he was giving me.

Suddenly I realized this was a golden opportunity to be the mom I should always be, the person I should always be, the example I should strive to always be. With all my concerted efforts lately to live better, recognize my blessings and changes I need to make in my own life, I managed to keep my mouth shut. I let him rant and rave and go on and on until he was through. It didn't matter what I had to say anyhow, he wasn't listening and would never have heard a word I had said had I actually spoken out loud anyway.

When he was done griping, I looked him dead in the eye and said, "Lord, I need you right now. I do not want to be disrespectful to my child. I want to say only those things I should say, so I need you to give me the words, if there are any." And what do you know - the message was loud and clear. I needed to just keep my mouth shut - PERIOD. And silence is what I gave him.

He jumped up from his homework table, stomped off down the hall and retreated to his room with a slam of the door. And silent I was. About 15 minutes later, he came and hugged me. He sat down at the table and finished part of his homework that was giving him trouble, stood back up and came back to me. He sat down on the ottoman in front of me and said, "I'm sorry."

"For what?", I said.

"For being disrespectful and mean. It wasn't you. I was mad."

"Why were you mad sugar?"

"Because I'm mad at Mr. Whalen and I think I shouldn't have to do this because it wasn't my fault I missed the lesson. They should have brought it to me. He should have explained all that to me instead of just giving it to me. It's all HIS fault!"

Well, here is when I want to say, "Well, your own choices are what resulted in this loss of instruction. It's up to you to change this, complete your homework and learn what you missed." Here is what I said instead, "Well, as much as i can appreciate your frustration, this is what our assignment is and we have to make the best of what we've got. I'm here to help you if you want me to. If you don't that's fine but you'll be on your own to complete the work."

See, it's a lot like asking God to help us out with tough situations and then deciding you can do it better. Why bother if you're just going to do it on your own anyway. He is RIGHT THERE! He is patient and waits for you to ask sometimes in order to receive your most wonderful and profound blessings. Others who are also dependent on us to learn how to act and react to these very types of events that happen every day need us to remember this too. If we continue to strive to use His thoughts, His words, act as He would want us to act, we are always the example we need to be not only for our children but for others as well. It is our responsibility to live our lives immersed in His ways, His love, His word, by His example. This is the only way to achieve all we are intended to be, receive all His gifts and live abundantly. Deuteronomy 30:16 says, "For I am commanding you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commands, statutes, and ordinances, so that you may live and multiply, and the Lord your God may bless you in the land you are entering to possess."

So I ask you, would you rather talk more, or listen more? Would you rather be quiet or open your mouth without His words in your heart and erase all doubt as to whom the fool really is?

1 comment:

Kathy said...

As a mom, wife, daughter, caregiver and many other rolls I play I desperately need to learn to SHUT UP sometimes and just listen. I am adding these verses to my smash book...:)