Monday, February 13, 2012

Be Nice

I was grocery shopping with my sister a couple of months ago when a man approached me. He told me his wife had sent him to buy water chestnuts and asked me if I knew where (and what) they were. I replied that I did not, but I eventually found them by the Asian food (if you ever need to know) and soon after, the man found them too. As he grabbed a can off the shelf, he looked at me closer and said, "You look familiar. Do I know you?" I asked him what high school he went to. Not the same as me. I asked him his name and then BAM! It hit me! This is how the conversation went:
Me: "You were SO MEAN to me in 7th grade!"
Him: "Oh man. That was so long ago. Can you really hold it against me?"
Me: "One day I wore my hair in a ponytail. The next day I wore it down and you said my hair looked like a ski jump."
Him: "I'm so sorry. Really, but that was a long time ago."
Me: "Don't worry about it. How are you?"
We then had some awkward small talk and went our separate ways. I am not bitter towards him anymore. I am glad he is doing well. I even feel a little bad that I brought the past up. But the lesson remains: Think before you speak unkind words. The adage, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me" is not entirely true. I was vulnerable in 7th grade. I had just moved to a new area and had no friends at school. Add to that the insecurities that come with being a preteen and you get one extremely shy, self-conscious girl. The truth is, this boy's constant teasing in 7th grade made my life miserable. He and one other girl would team up to bully me daily in History and English class. The ski jump remark sounds funny now, but combined with the many other insults they dished out, it was not funny at all. 7th grade was so bad that I asked for a boundary waiver and changed schools. That was the beginning of a better life for me.
I recall a story I heard in a sacrament meeting talk. A father told his son to hammer some nails in a fence. He said that the nails are hurtful words we say to each other. He then instructed his son to remove the nails from the fence. That signifies saying "I'm sorry". Even though the nails were gone from the fence, the hole they left remained. The hurt from unkind words may still linger, because words once said cannot be undone. Jesus Christ taught us “that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36). Of course, we should refuse to take offense and forgive people who are mean to us, but it is easier said than done. Deep wounds need time to heal.
The scriptures give us counsel concerning our speech with one another:
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good . . . be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4: 29, 32).
How can we follow this counsel to, as the hymn speaks, "Let us oft speak kind words to each other"? By developing charity, the pure love of Christ, for all mankind. We need to love one another. "The real challenge that we face in our communications with others is to condition our hearts to have Christlike feelings for all of Heavenly Father’s children. When we develop this concern for the condition of others, we then will communicate with them as the Savior would. We will then warm the hearts of those who may be suffering in silence. As we meet people with special needs along life’s way, we can then make their journey brighter by the things that we say" (Elder L. Lionel Kendrick, General Conference October 1988).
I will be more careful in the way I speak to God's children. I can be more kind, more patient, and more loving. I am glad I ran into my old middle school nemesis! My own experience reminded me how important it is to speak positively. A seminary teacher taught me that before I speak, I should review the following questions:
Is it kind?
Is it positive?
Is it true?
Is it necessary?
Would the Savior say it?


Catherine said...

I definitely had my fair share of unkind words spoken towards me in 7th grade, too. Luckily, it taught me the power of kind words, so by the time I was in 9th grade, my goal was to treat every 7th grader as the cool person they were and not like a 7th grade baby. Do you remember when we met in middle school? I tried to reach out to you and your friends, and it turn, you all made ME feel loved and extra special. Happy memories for sure! :)

pogilvie said...

Tell me the name of your 7th grade nemesis and I will go beat him up!

Cheltz said...

Love the nail analogy. I'm going to have to use in with my kids (maybe next time it's my turn to teach FHE?)