I was correcting one of my daughters in her thinking the other day, and I asked her some questions to try to get her to acknowledge the truth of what her choices were causing and resulting in…. She refused to respond and just stared with that little “eyes of steel” and straight-line mouth expression that she is so good at. I pressed further. After a few more moments of silence and my expectant penetrating gaze that she could see quite clearly out of the side of those hardened eyes, she verbally lashed out with exasperation, “Why should I answer your stupid questions when you already know the answers?!”
“Because, sweet girl”—my endearing name for my girls that helps me in those hot moments to remember that my correction needs to always remain grounded in love—”I am not asking for my benefit. I am asking because I am trying to teach you the good way, and I know that there is power in speaking what is true. I know that freedom comes from admitting things, and that we can only start to change our negative patterns when we see them clearly. It is harder to believe the lie that it is “me against the world” when I actually admit that I am wrong out loud (which is NOT to say others are not also wrong, but does make room for me to learn and grow). Then I can experience love and forgiveness and actually move towards making a better choice next time.”
I had to admit to my daughter that I also brought my sin into this encounter. I probably kept monologuing, like I often do—not particularly helpful… I was also defensive and snarky when I probed, “By the way, do your teachers ever ask you questions that they know the answers to? Hmmm?” All that to say, I need to learn and grow in this area too…
Verbally speaking things about ourselves—both celebratory and painful things—is meaningful. It matters to say it.
- I like ___.
- I am a Christian.
- I am struggling with my identity.
- I am feeling alone.
- I don’t like that.
- I did that thing that hurt you.
- I was wrong (which is different from “I’m sorry”).
Why are these kinds of statements often hard to say?
The Bible points to this principle about how words can bring life and/or death in Proverbs 18:21, where it says “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
Yet admitting my mistakes, and verbalizing my emotions and my fears enables me to take steps to move forward in a positive way. I want to embrace the truth, and I want to invite others into my journey of life and growth in this messy, broken world I find myself in. I don’t want my emotional energy to be used up in denying or hiding that thing I am ashamed of, or in worrying about what people will do when they see the real me. When I speak truth and receive grace from God (and hopefully from those around me who love me), then I can safely enter the process of healing and growing. It may be a long journey, but it is the road I need to travel.