There is one part of parenting that is revealing parts of myself that I didn’t know existed. That is youth sports. I have never been chill, and I know this. But I did not expect passion to escape from my being as it does when my son’s team has the ball. I try to play it cool with some of the other cute moms and relaxed fathers on the side lines. I enjoy chatting with the other fans of children’s team sporting events. But more often than not, I am interrupting a nice conversation about what our kids will or won’t eat for dinner with a shout of “GOOOOO GOOOO GOOOO!” because all of a sudden my son or one of his friends is running the ball. I can’t help it. I am a loud, but encouraging team mom.
I have been comparing these same compulsory responses to those that erupt when you stub your toe on the corner of the couch. You don’t always get to plan those next few syllables that sneak (or stampede) out of your mouth. You don’t get to practice your response to sharp pain and usually that response is wrapped in anger, which could lead to not so shiny statements. But just because you’re not in a place to edit your comments with your full range of self-control, does not mean you’re off the hook for what comes out of your mouth. I learned this lesson recently.
I was sitting next to a mom I didn’t recognize. She was kind and didn’t complain with her face when I decided to share her shady spot instead of choosing a space outside of her bubble. I was being loud encouraging the team as always. I typically try to celebrate both sides of the field if the situation arises. There was a particular play when one of the players on the opposing team got a little aggressive when he didn’t go as far as he wanted. I kind of laughed at the situation with her, made a passing comment about his frustration, and then quickly followed it up with a complement about his cuteness. Insert generic mom comments here. After the game, that same little boy from the opposing team came running up to his mom sitting right next to me. My mind immediately raced back to my comments. Were they rude? Did I mock or ridicule him? Was she even paying attention? Luckily after my rapid-fire recall moment, I felt I was in the clear. I told him good game and left so glad I didn’t have my foot in my mouth.
Lesson learned: you have no idea who is listening! There are very few things that can break the potential for relationship than insulting someone’s child. I know I would have a hard time trusting someone who was rude to my little ones. Paul warns us in 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.
This doesn’t mean when you’re in a good mood, or at church, or when you’re totally aware of your surroundings. This isn’t because God wants to control us, or dictate what we say. I truly believe God gives us these warnings because it’s wisdom. If I were to shout out negative things about a little one who is having a negative moment during a child’s sporting event, I may have used words that don’t matter to end a friendship before it even began.
God desires for us to love one another. One of the ways to do that is with your words. It’s really difficult to say I love you after a situation when your words or actions say quite the opposite. We must weed out the negative stuff so when we are in an auto-response mode, it’s not hurtful to those who are forced to hear us. We don’t always get to pick who hears us, but we do get to pick our words.
Candace Cortez is the Executive Pastor at Koinonia Church. Any comments may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
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