"She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed ..." Proverbs 31:26-28a (ESV)
On a sunny spring day, I sat in my backyard with my friend Suzy and our kids. While we relaxed in lawn chairs, sipping lemonade, a few of the children played on the swing set. The rest sat at our bright yellow children's picnic table, purchased just days earlier. They were happily creating masterpieces on the pages of several coloring books.
When it came time to serve lunch, I helped the children clear their coloring supplies off the table. As I grabbed the crayons and coloring books, I spied a frightful sight. One of Suzy's daughters had gone into the house and grabbed permanent markers to color with instead of the crayons. And colored with them she did – all over the brand new picnic table! She'd even written her name in her very best 7-year-old penmanship.
I was angry that our newly purchased picnic table was now laden with red and purple permanent graffiti. I wanted to raise my voice and shout and scream my displeasure. But I didn't. Instead, I leaned over and gently spoke to my friend's child.
"Oh, Kelly. Miss Karen wants you to use crayons when you color, not markers. Would you please go put them back in the house? Thank you, honey."
My eldest child's jaw dropped when she saw how I reacted to the situation with kindness and a calm voice.
Loud enough for everyone to hear, she said, "Man! It's a good thing it was you, Kelly, and not one of us. Mom would've hollered at us something awful if we'd done that!"
My daughter simply vocalized a truth she noticed in my life: I tend to lose my cool with my family, but somehow manage to keep calm when I interact with others.
Today's key verse, describing the actions of the woman from Proverbs 31:26, states, "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." Can that be said of us? Or would a reality TV reporter capture the way we talk to our families and announce, "She snaps with caustic words, and 'Why can't you this?' and 'You should have that!' rolls angrily off her tongue."
When communicating with others, it appears this woman in the Scripture Hall of Fame was careful to speak in a way that honored and glorified God. In the Amplified Version of the Bible, which is rendered as close to the original language as possible, Proverbs 31:26 reads, "She opens her mouth in skillful and godly Wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness [giving counsel and instruction]."
The tone of voice you'd use with a stranger.
Friendly, not feisty.
And the words, "giving counsel."
Counsel is giving advice and guidance in a gentle but direct way that helps the person who's seeking the instruction. Counsel is not barking. Counsel is not belittling. Counsel is not filled with superlatives like "Why can't you ever _____?" and "See, you never _____!"
I faced the music that day and owned up to the truth my child pointed out: I tend to extend grace to those outside my family — even complete strangers — while so easily snapping at the people within my home.
Yes, there are times we must instruct and correct our families. Yet when we do, we should be conscientious and kind while giving counsel. It's not always easy, but God is always available to help me not to be controlling, complaining or critical.
Perhaps we would all do better to learn to pause before we pounce when interacting with our loved ones, treating them with the respect we tend to give others. Or better yet, to pause, pray and then not pounce at all!
Dear Lord, I want to run my home well, but as I seek to do so, help me to pause before I react, to ensure my words and actions are pleasing to You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 15:1, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (NIV)
Psalm 101:2, "I will be careful to lead a blameless life — when will you come to me? I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart." (NIV)
REFLECT AND RESPOND: Was there ever a time when you barked at your family about how things were done around your home? What happened?
In retrospect, how could the situation have been handled differently?
© 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org