The sky was a mixture of pastel colors with a brilliant sunrise on the horizon. While taking an early morning walk through my neighborhood, I passed several houses where parents were buckling car seats, loading backpacks, and preparing to take their children to school. Others with coffee mugs and briefcases in hand were leaving for another day at work.
At one particular house, there was a father who was taking his children to school. I don’t know what had happened in that house beforehand, but I do know that once outside in earshot, that man spoke extraordinarily hate-filled words to his young son. Even after seeing me, he continued to loudly berate the child until the car door was shut and they drove off. I felt sick for that child, knowing that if a dad would speak that way first thing in the morning in public, what must the child hear from him behind closed doors.
I couldn’t help but remember my own dad. He lived with a verbally abusive father throughout his childhood. He was berated by the person who should have loved him more than anyone. Gratefully my dad made an intentional choice to be a different kind of father to his children than his father had been to him.
My dad left early each morning for work as a barber and Mom would get up early to prepare a hot breakfast for him. As a child, I would hear their voices in the kitchen and walk bleary-eyed down the hallway so I could be with them. When Dad saw me, the first words from his mouth would be, “Well, good morning Sunshine!” That’s quite a different scenario from the child in my neighborhood. With a 10-hour workday ahead of him, severe rheumatoid arthritis to contend with, a family to provide for, and all the other stresses of life, he chose to speak to my mother, sister, and me with kindness and appreciation as long as he lived.
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will cut right through me! Not the way we said it as children, but certainly more truthful! How are we speaking to those in our family? Are we as considerate, patient, and kind to those in our own household as we are to our co-workers, neighbors, and friends?
- Is our conversation full of grace, even to the toddler who asks never-ending questions (Colossians 4:6)?
- Are we building up our spouse with our words or tearing them down with nitpicking and criticism (Ephesians 4:29)?
- Are we crushing the spirit within our children or soothing them with our gentle words (Proverbs 15:4)?
- Are we restraining our tongue when we get frustrated or giving others “a piece of our mind” (Proverbs 17:27-28)?
- Are we speaking gently when someone is angry with us or stirring up more anger by firing back (Proverbs 15:1)?
- Is it more important to share our opinions than to listen to the opinions of others (Proverbs 18:2)?
- When we must answer our teenager on a matter, are we weighing our answers carefully (Proverbs 15:28)?
- Do we find ourselves nagging to get our goals accomplished (Proverbs 10:19)?
When you speak to your spouse and children, remember that your words can hold the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). Make every day one that lets them know that they are important, they are loved, and they are your “sunshine!”