Don’t say anything that would hurt [another person]. Instead, speak only what is good so that you can give help wherever it is needed. That way, what you say will help those who hear you. Ephesians 4:29 God’s Word Translation

I’m home again from my trip out to Seattle where I spent 4 nights with my mother-in-law.  I decided to travel sooner than I had planned because she seemed to need some encouragement and company.  A few health setbacks had recently plagued her and she sounded sad and lonely on the phone.

Five days before arriving, I had hurt her during a Zoom call when I brought up a couple of subjects, asking her pointed questions meant to hurt her and make me look superior.   Cousin Terry, who knows my heart only too well, calls it ‘being imperial’. She suggested apologizing to my mother-in-law when I arrived.

Within 20 minutes of being welcomed into her apartment, I did just that. I told Mom how sorry I was for deliberately hurting her.  She apparently hadn’t noticed during that Zoom call, or so she said.  But I pressed the issue so she would know that what I had said was UNKIND and that the Holy Spirit had leaned on me hard in the days that followed.  I confessed how sorry I was for hurting her.  Then I asked her forgiveness.  She responsive hug brought me relief, that sense of being washed clean and separated from my sin.

During the 4 days with her, God gave me several occasions to notice and not to succumb to my decades-old tendency to bring up a topic with the intention of criticizing one of her viewpoints. The prime test came when together we viewed her church’s Sunday service, streamed on You Tube. I knew that several girlfriends (thank you Joyce, Jill, Frances, Cousin Terry and others) as well as Mike were praying for me to cultivate a heart of kindness to source my words.

What startled me was noticing the obvious places, where up until this week, I would have initiated a comment meant to put down something she said and/or to point to how ‘wise’ and knowledgeable I was about the topic. Instead, I kept my mouth shut. 

What I did do, for a change, was to look for something positive I could respond with when she made a comment.  For example, when she praised the young deacon who gave the homily during the service, I simply said: “Yes, he enunciated well (through the mask) and spoke with clarity about the topic.”

I realize now that Mom is not someone who asks me for my opinion or viewpoint.  She’s not curious that way.  I cringe thinking of the countless times I have offered my views, unbidden.

What cemented this lesson in choosing words meant only to bless and help others came from what I read in a book from Joyce, Watchfulness: Recovering a Lost Spiritual Discipline.

In the section I read only three days ago while still in Seattle, the author describes ‘Delilah Sins’.  These are those evil habits that we cherish, that we love to indulge in. It didn’t take me long to articulate my # 1 Delilah Sin, that of provocation.

I have been a ‘provocatrice’ for as long as I can remember. 

I am SO glad that the Lord has finally intervened before it’s too late.  NOW is the time for me to kill this practice. This temptation has for far too long promised a moment of delightful satisfaction….only to leave me UN-satisfied and feeling ‘sour’.

I praise God that for the first time, I actually feel a new desire growing, one where I keep my viewpoints to myself unless asked.  Now, I want to use my words simply to give help and hope.  Looking back over my life, I see clearly that the majority of my words have often been unnecessary and many times meant to make Maria look good, not Christ.  Thank you, Lord, for your gift of new mercies.