Laurie O’Connor dealt with tragedy that knocked her off her path of following God for a while, but God ultimately used it to refine her and make her stronger in her faith. She didn’t just keep her lessons to herself, though; she wrote about her journey in her book Live ABOVE the Chaos, so others could learn from her story as well. My friend gave me the book to read about a year ago, and since God used it to teach me, I wanted to share it with others, too. I reviewed it on my blog here. I hope others will learn from her story and be more prepared for when tragedy hits.
I’m glad Laurie was willing to guest post for me today. Her words are full of wisdom, and they are a help for me as I navigate how to speak into my children’s lives. May her words bless you today, too! When you’re finished, I encourage you to head on over to her blog, www.oaksministries.com, for more great words.
by Laurie O’Connor
Lately I have been bombarded with situations in which people speak boldly into other peoples’ lives.
It not only shocks me how people think they have the right to speak, but also how right they think they are!
As a professor who teaches communication, I have taught my students, “There is a lifetime behind every face.” By this, I acknowledge that an entire lifetime led up to each student sitting in my classroom on their first day of the semester and that entire lifetime is invisible to me. I don’t know anything about them, yet each student is interpreting everything I say and do through the lens of a lifetime that remains invisible to me.
It is a miracle any effective communication occurs at all.
Yet all too often I watch people who know a fraction about someone’s life speak as if they know everything. I too have made plenty of mistakes, speaking when I ought not. However, I have also prayed for years that God would let me live out Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” In my pursuit of letting God imprint my life with this verse, some principles have emerged that have served me well.
Speak to patterns.
Each of us make a gazillion mistakes each day, and we don’t need to hear about each one. To do so would be like living with a nag. I don’t want my relationship with anyone to feel like I am all about fault-finding. People would be running away from me, not toward me. Instead of speaking to incidents, which occur daily, I wait to see if a pattern is developing. If I see one, I consider speaking then.
For example, one of my daughters keeps her room very neat and clean. If I pass her room one day and it looks like a bomb went off, I don’t need to say a word. It is not her pattern. I assume she is busy or ran late that morning. No need to speak.
Don’t let this proverb be about you: “It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman” (Prov. 21:19). Be this woman instead: “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (Prov. 31:26).
Speak to sin, not opinion.
Generally speaking, if nothing disagrees with biblical principles, I don’t need to speak. If it’s not sin, people in my life are set free. Galatians 5:1 says, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” I need to parent my kids with freedom, especially my older children. I don’t have to love their style of clothing or career choices. It is critically important that none of us subject others to our own version of a yoke of slavery by calling something a sin that is not.
Speak only if asked.
You may have done this like I have. Something about a person’s life has been bugging you, and today you are going shopping with them. They climb in the car with you and shut the door. Perfect! A captive audience. You begin to speak with strong opinion and superior tone of voice. Problem is, they didn’t ask for your opinion. They thought they were going shopping but have now been blind-sided: happens on roadways all around the country every day.
Wait until you are asked for your opinion before giving it. When asked, you know the person’s heart and mind are ready to receive. Wise people – and people who are ready to listen – ask for counsel: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Prov. 15:22).
Speak only after asking permission.
Suppose the person you want to speak with is not asking for your opinion, but the issue is big, and you believe God wants you to speak. First, pray! God may fix it without you needing to say a word. He often does. If He doesn’t, your prayers increase the likelihood of your words producing good effect.
In addition, before you speak, ask permission. Give the person some control over when and where the conversation will occur: Tonight after the kids go to bed? A coffee at Starbucks? If she says she doesn’t want to hear, forcing the matter wasn’t going to work anyway. People need to be ready if your words of wisdom have any chance of falling on receptive ears and a willing heart.
Using the car example above, ask permission to use the car ride for a conversation and make sure you tell them it’s okay if they say no (and mean it). If they say no, enjoy the shopping day.
Speak only if you are the one for the job.
Sometimes you aren’t the one to do the speaking. You simply don’t know the person well enough. Big matters are best handled by close friends. It may be your job to only pray and never speak.
Know when enough is enough.
Suppose your child has been speaking disrespectfully to you, and you have been addressing it appropriately and consistently. But today, your child comes home crying. He did not do well on a test and was taunted on the bus. He is fragile. While expressing himself, he is disrespectful to you again.
Let it go. Not tonight. Know when not to speak.
Whenever we open our mouths, it should be with utmost respect for the lifetime and heart of the person with whom we are speaking. “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:6).
© 2016 by Oaks Ministries. All rights reserved.
Laurie O’Connor became passionate about helping people investigate the true strength of their faith after discovering her own faith in God was much weaker than she first believed. She founded Oaks Ministries based on Colossians 1:28-29 and is the author of Live ABOVE the Chaos. Follow her on Twitter @oaksministries or on her blog at www.oaksministries.com. Laurie currently lives with her husband and children near Atlanta, GA.
Book Giveaway Winners
The winner for my book giveaway for Move Toward the Mess by John Hambrick is Gracious Encourager. Congratulations! Please contact me at heather.bock[at]glimpsesofjesus.com with your address, and I will send you your book. If I don’t hear from you within a week, I will draw another name. Thank you!
In addition, the winner of The Journal the Word NKJV Bible is Naren. Be sure to contact me by Wednesday at heather.bock[at]glimpsesofjesus.com with your address so I can send you your Bible. Congratulations!