Yesterday, Ruby wanted to write a note to her 5 cousins. My brother’s kids are among her favorite people, and mine.
The note said:
“Dear Family: I love you all more than I can think of. But you should know Joy (Ruby’s cousin and erstwhile frenemy) got really excited. She was throwing my things when I asked her not to. I think the world of you. But you need to know that Joy was out of control. Love, Ruby.”
I told her she couldn’t’ give that to them. Nobody wants to be forever immortalized in writing, reminded about how poorly they behaved. I tried a little empathy exercise with Ruby.
“How would you like it if I said, ‘Oh, Ruby, I really love you. But you have all this money. You could buy me a hot chocolate every day. Yet you don’t. I don’t know why, when I love you so much.’ How would that make you feel?”
Ruby pondered this a moment. “Not very good,” she replied, reluctantly.
I told her she didn’t need to write or say everything she thought. It’s not necessary, nor is it edifying. Filtering begins at home. Take it from me.
She tossed out the old letter and wrote a new one, replete with a compliment for each of her remarkable relations. Joy told good “jocks” (jokes), Olivia was a good “righter”, Grace a good big sister, Eliot loved dinosaurs and Isaac had a funny way of calling every sweet “cookie”.
It got me thinking. There are times when you need to speak up, like if your boss is harassing you. It’s important to set boundaries and to be respected, and to keep your sanity. Other times, your words only make the situation worse. Getting into arguments about the origin of the quill pen with your co-worker – especially arrogant ones who know everything – won’t endear you to them. It might make you someone to avoid at the next company birthday party. Not that I know anything about that.
I submit this is a learning process. Like Ecclesiastes 3:7 says there is a time for everything under heaven: A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. Our words have the power to tear or to mend. Our words are our tools. We must choose how we will wield them.