In my church, we talk a lot about words of life. They are meant to be words that encourage people and call them into a deeper, more joyful way of living. However, there’s another paradigm that sometimes enters into the words we listen to. There are other words out there that are much more difficult to hear, sometimes so much so that they don’t feel much like “words of life” at all. In fact, they feel a bit like.
At least, they hurt pretty bad.
Once I was with my family and I was wondering about how I hadn’t been more successful in my somewhat anti-climactic musical career, and my beloved sister just looked at me and said, “Well it’s probably because you were just too lazy and too unhealthy to be successful.”
But the thing is, even with words that direct, and that challenging (and trust me: I don’t really like to hear words like that), I wasn’t crushed. I didn’t yell, or lash back.
In fact, I realized that I was sitting in front of deep truth, and I had to choose whether to hear and embrace it, or turn away.
To that end, I chose to hear it, and some remarkable things happened:
- That truth actually released me from some regret and some preoccupation with my past failures as an artist. I realized that I really was responsible—in a way—for my lack of success.
- It led me to continue to confront those two themes—laziness and “un-health”—in my life, which has led to some cool healing.
Now, I take it as a given for Christians that we understand that sometimes death needs to happen before new life can take place.
To that end, sometimes words of life don’t feel like words of life at all. They can feel like words of death: hard and challenging even sad. But when they are spoken by people we trust, and spoken in a manner that is designed for us to grow, these hard words can kill something inside of us that needs to die in order for growth, new life, and healing to take place.
However, I also know that words can be uttered with the intent to destroy, not resurrect; to reduce, not instruct; to hurt and not love. So before you decide to “hear” hard words, I’d offer a few suggestions:
- Consider the source: do you trust them? Do you trust that they love you? Are they people of the light?
- Consider the environment: were they angry when they said it (my sister was not)? Were you in a fight?
- Consider the implications: what would happen if you took their words into your heart? In my case, I sensed that Beth’s words would set me free, and so I could allow them in.
I’ve heard other harsh words in my life, but what about you? Have you heard hard truths that ultimately invited you to grow in profound ways?
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