Think B4 You Speak

No one really remembers much about fifth grade by the time college comes around.  Elementary school isn’t really the major topic of discussion.  However, today I recalled a certain day of my elementary school days.

There was a substitute teacher in my classroom that day.  She was a tall woman with giant glasses, which made her appear really smart.  She was definitely intimidating to me.  I remember sitting in class talking to all my friends.  The details get blurry from here but I remember being perplexed about a topic and asking her a question.  It was a simple question yet her response was quite mean.  This is probably why I remember it so vividly.  She glared at me and declared, “Next time, think before you speak.”

She then moved on with the lesson like it was no big deal.  I was stunned.  I hadn’t done anything wrong.  I didn’t say anything rude.  Why did she make such a sly remark?  It was only a question?  I remember sitting there  contemplating her response for a while.  She was known to say this specific statement to students.  But me…I was the perfect little fifth grader.  How could she?  I became really angry with how she treated me that day.  I thought, “Doesn’t she know that to speak we have to think first? Duh.”

While I do believe it was not right for the teacher to embarrass me in front of the class, I was reminded today that there is a lot of truth behind her harsh reply.  Even terrible elementary school memories can bring about positive transformation.

In the Bible we are constantly reminded of the power that is speech.

In Ephesians 4:29 it is written…

“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 causes me to start asking a lot of questions.

  • What does unwholesome mean?
  •  What does it mean to build others up?
  •  Who is listening?

Unwholesome

“Wholesome” is a word defined as “conducive to or promoting moral well being.”  Therefore, we have to decide what words are causing destruction.

The first thought that always comes to mind is cursing (or cussing to my non-northern friends).  What is so wrong with that?  It’s just words?  That was what I thought for the longest time.  Sometimes I still think that way.  Don’t get me wrong, I am human.  I still curse (or cuss whatever floats your boat).  It has been, for me, the most difficult habit to break.  I strive to stop but it is something I still struggle with daily.

However, a turning point in my understanding happened two years ago.

I was at a pool party with a lot of my family and friends.  There was a little kid about ten years old playing a water polo type game with us in the pool.  I then messed up during the game and got really frustrated with myself.  Forgetting that he was playing with us, I shouted a curse word loud and clear.  The minute I said it the kid looked at me with a face of disdain.  His eyes were bugged eyed and he looked hurt.  This was a young boy that I could tell looked up to me.  What kind of role model was I now to him?  Realizing my error, I stopped for a moment and realized that our speech defines us.  The words that roll of our tongues are projections of our character.

Luke 6:45 tells it exactly how it is…

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” 

What is your heart full of today?  Is it full of hatred, disgust, laziness, greed?  If not, why do we allow our speech to project these images in our relationships with others.  Is it full of love, joy, praise, truth?  Allow your speech to be wholesome.

Building Others Up

Everyone remembers a compliment a stranger or a friend gave them at a random moment.  Out of nowhere you go from having a so-so day to feeling like you are like a King or Queen.  While the compliment can be about physical items such as, “I like your shoes”…it can also be about the character of another.

For example, when thanking an individual we are acknowledging their generous and helpful character.  Words which positively acknowledging another have VALUE.  In order to build others up we have to speak to them with words which guide them to see the virtue within themselves.  To contrast this, in order to build others up we may also have to tell them if they are starting to crumble.  When we see friends or family members go down the wrong path it is our job to be there and help them find stability.  But, who am I to try to help them?  You are someone that loves them and cares for them.  You are a pillar.  That is enough.

In Matthew 12:36 it is stated…

“But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.”

You are responsible for the empty words.  I see empty words as being words with no substance.  Empty words are also lost words.  Words never spoken.  To not speech when you know it is necessary for the well-being of another is just as wrong as speaking “unwholesomely.”

Who is listening?

In short….everyone.  The words we say about others define us.  Just like I thought I was at the pool party with all older friends and family, I had forgotten that the little boy was present.  Someone is ALWAYS looking up to you as a role model whether it be a younger sibling, friend, loved one, or neighbor.  Even if you think that is not the case I can promise you it is true.  Allow others to listen to words which guide them to truth, rather than planting tiny land mines.  Allow yourself to listen to others that strive to speak virtuously. Let them be a guide for your own personal growth.

In conclusion, I read a quote a while ago which is summed up into something like this, “The adjectives you use to describe others, are the adjectives that describe yourself.”

Go out, treasure the gift of speech, and think before you speak.

 You never know who is listening.  

 

 

A Letter to My College-Bound Little Sister

Dear C,

Congrats! You got into college!  I remember how radical that moment felt.  Over break you told me that you had found your university.  The deposit was then made.  It is also FB official, so it must be true.

This summer is going to feel like the slowest summer ever because you will be so ready for move in day.  Now that I am going into my senior year of college, I feel like I know a little bit about the experience to give you some advice.  Every college is different…I understand that; however, I don’t think they are as different as you may think.

So, here is my advice.  I hope you remember it when the time comes.

  1. Guys can be nice?

Contrary to popular belief there are guys out there who are genuinely nice, loving, God-fearing people.  I know the media and others tell you otherwise.  You see FB pages and news articles flooded with scary stories about men.  Yes.  The majority of these stories are true.  There are totally guys out there who are TERRIBLE people.  Bring pepper spray.  However, this is not all guys.  Find the nice guys at your university.  Find the guys who volunteer.  Find the guys who go to Church.  Find the guys who thank the cafeteria worker.    Ask yourself…would my three brothers approve?  If so, I’m sure he is a wonderful person.  If not…walk away.  If you are still confused as to what we would think put him on the phone I’ll be the judge of that.  Never be afraid to call me about boy problems.  It takes a boy to understand a boy.  I usually can decipher what is going on inside our monkey brains.

Always remember to find a man that treats you like the princess that you are.

2.  The TRUE you: Beautiful Inside and Out!  

Obviously, right?  It’s in our genetics.

On a serious note though, there will be so many people in college and life that will try everything they can to make you feel inferior.  They may be jealous of you or just an overall mean person.  They will make comments about you that aren’t true.  They will laugh at you behind your back and mock you in front of your face.  Like I said above there will also be guys that will treat you this way.  Forget them.  During these times when you feel hurt and alone my advice would be to talk to someone.  Call me.  Call a friend from back home. Talk to a close friend at your university.

Listen to the people that know the true you.  

Do not let the harmful words of others build up inside of you and cause chaos.  Surround yourself with people that know you are beautiful inside and out.

3. Work Hard, but STAY HUMBLE.

The fact that you are given the opportunity to go to college is AMAZING. Do not ever forget that.

One of my favorite Bible verses that reminds me every day how we should live is…

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves…” Philippians 2:3.

In college the work load is nothing like high school.  It is so much harder especially the field you are going into.  Therefore, remember to not let the everyday distractions get in the way of the work you need to do.  If you study hard and do your best you will succeed academically.  I know that.  But when you do succeed, remember to stay humble about it.  Help those around you that are struggling to get receive great grades.  Do not let competition prevent you from valuing the greatness in others.  If you do your best you will win the prize, but remember to help others receive the prize as well.

4. Make friends that BUILD YOU UP.  

The greatest things about friendship is it provides a support system.  You are going to college far away from home just like me.

It is a BIG change.

When you take an airplane to school you are leaving everything behind.  Yeah you have a cell phone and the internet to connect you with family and old friends; however, it is not the same.  You need people in your community to be physically present with you.  You need quality friendships.  I say “quality” because some friendships are superficial.  There is no depth to them.  Quite frankly, should these relationships even be called friendships? You need to find individuals who make you a better person each and everyday.  You need to find friends that challenge you academically and spirituality.  These are friendships that will be built out of love for one another.  As Aristotle would say these are not friendships of “utility.” These people will do things for you just because they care so much about you.  They will not need to receive any form of praise or a reward for helping you.  They will choose to be by your side no matter what…because they love you for you.

These are the types of friendships you deserve.

5.  Don’t let likes define you.  

I get it.  Lots of likes on an Insta or FB photo is pretty sweet.  Not gonna lie it feels good.  However, don’t let the likes define you.  Don’t strive to be known by others for your photos but to be known by  your kindness.  To be known by others for your wisdom.  To be known by others for your patience.  To be known by others for your loyalty.  To be known by others for your generosity.

Best of all, to be known by others for the way in which you follow in the footsteps of Christ.  

6. Treat your body well.

Sleep is important.  Really really important.  I found this out when I started hallucinating in my Biology final freshman year from sleep deprivation.  You may think you will get the proper amount of sleep every night but trust me…in college you will neglect it.  Staying up late at night with friends is usually always a good time.  Cherish those moments.  However, don’t let it cause you to slip up in other areas of your life.  Sleep allows you to destress.  It will give you the energy to be present with others throughout the day.

Try your best to eat healthy.  I know you already eat super healthy, but to be honest it gets hard to do freshman year.  The dining halls aren’t the best place to find quality food.  Don’t get discouraged by the poor options, but do your best to make it work.

Lastly, be sure to work out as often as possible.  I know right now you work out consistently, but I will tell you that once the work load gets tough it will be hard to stay consistent.  Working out takes out a large chunk of time from the day.  You need to change, workout, shower, then eat a lot because you will be super hungry.  So stay organized and you will have no problem finding the time.  Be smart with your time and prioritize.  I was definitely not the best at organization, you know that from my room at home.  Don’t be like me.  If you follow these health tips your body will be thanking you ten years from now.

7.  Love God, Love Others 

I put this last because it is the most important.  If you are going to take anything away from these small pieces of advice remember this…Nothing in this life is more important than loving God and the people He has made.  God has gotten me through hell week after hell week.  God has been with me late at night when I feel like the weight of the world was crushing me.  God has guided me to the right professors, friends, and organizations that have allowed me to express my talents.  Without my faith I do not think I could have made it this far in college.

Attending Church on Sunday is great don’t get me wrong, but you need to do more than just that in college.  The hustle and bustle of the average day in college makes it difficult to prioritize.  Something I have slacked on is listening to God in prayer.  Take time out of your day to thank God for your ups and downs and for being with you through the storm.  Persevere with prayer.  It is a scary thought to think we spend hours in connection with the Internet everyday, yet give God barely anytime in prayer.

Therefore, I ask you to spend time with God each day while starting college.  Read the Bible and pray for your friends and others in your community.  Through prayer God will guide you on a beautiful path you never knew existed.  Ephesians 3:20 says,

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than ALL we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

Why is this such an important passage in the Bible?  It shows us that God does more than ALL WE ASK OR IMAGINE.  Is that not awesome?! God is doing HUGE things for us each day, things that our earthly minds cannot even fathom.

With this all being said if you focus your attention on God you will begin to love on all the people around you.  The light of Christ will emit from your very core.

I end by telling you this…the memories I will cherish from college have nothing to do with academics.  Sure learning is amazing.  Education is such a blessing.  Academics are why I am here.  However, the moments these past three years, which have shaped me into the person I am today, have involved friendships and faith.  You will be surprised at how much you will change each semester.  I definitely would not be friends with my high school self.

Now, go out there and experience the best four years of your life.  I look forward to hearing all of your stories and watching you grow in friendships with others and faith in God.

P.S.  Remember…your big brother is always watching.

Love you C,

Nick