I have always found these words from Rhett Butler to Scarlett in "Gone With the Wind" rather jarring. They make me cringe. And while I might agree that Scarlett would never have been nominated for the Mother of the Year Award, that was just plain cruel. I mean, I think it's fair to say that most, if not all, mothers have a sort of tape of self-criticism that plays in our minds. We chronicle our faults, our failings, the times we messed up. We know all too well where we have failed to measure up to what we want to be as mothers. We don't need reminding.
Not too long ago, someone told me to my face that I am "unapproachable." Here's the bald truth: I am a shy person. I'm reserved. I'm an introvert. I find it draining to be in groups for large amounts of time. I'm not a natural conversationalist, or a social butterfly. But I try. I try as a believer in Christ, as the wife of an elder, and as a person who cares. I approach people I don't know at church. I often seek out someone sitting alone at gatherings. I've learned a little bit about the give and take of conversation during the past few years, and I think I'm slowly getting better. I am still reserved, and it isn't at all easy for me. But I am trying.
So...those words felt an awful lot like a slap in the face. And they were spoken in front of some people I really respect, so thankyouverymuch for that.
Did you ever see that episode of television's Friends? The one where Ross was trying to decide between Rachel and this other gal, and he made a List? It was a list of pros and cons, the girls' benefits and drawbacks. Rachel ended up coming out on top, but in the course of time she discovered the list, and was deeply hurt by it. She knew all that bad stuff about herself. She didn't need to see it pointed out, examined as a reason whether or not to be with her, especially not by someone who claimed to care.
I know that there are times when words of edification are in order. Spoken lovingly, received with a humble heart, these words can spur us on to be more like Jesus, and help us to grow. But so often (and especially in this modern, computer-driven world) words are spoken carelessly, boldly taking us places where we wouldn't think of going under normal circumstances.
As a mother, more often than I care to admit, the words I speak to my children are critical. They are meant to be edifying, but they end up pointing out incomplete tasks, unkindness to another child, carelessness. And I don't want to leave my children with that tape in their minds. I'm striving to find the balance between encouraging work well-done, work they can take pride in, and the sense that they're not measuring up. And more often than not, I want to point out when they do things well. The times when they are considerate and courteous. Those moments when they remind me of Jesus.
Because let's face it - for the most part, we know our faults. We know the places where we don't meet the standard that's been set before us. We are well aware of the times we fall down and fail to meet the hopes and expectations of those around us.
I want my words to be the kind that encourage positive self-esteem and cultivate a desire to keep on trying.
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11