Thursday, January 28, 2016

Just Do It.

My husband works for Nike. No, this isn't a Nike plug. But their slogan is incredibly applicable to my life situation for many reasons. 

Years ago, my husband gave me some great advice. I wasn't asking for it at the time and surprisingly, it still stuck well. He was emptying the dishwasher for me and I honestly have no idea what I was doing - maybe standing there in the kitchen doing nothing? Zoning out after a rough day with the boys? Anyway, he goes to put the strainer away and asks "Where does this go again?". 

I will admit, it was not my best moment. I can't say I reacted well. Even writing it out now I feel pretty ridiculous. We had lived in that house for over a year, he was the primary dishwasher-emptier, and the strainer was a hot commodity in our kitchen. Annoyed, I answered "Sheesh, under the corner cupboard. Why do you always forget? You put it down there all the time." He was so cool and collected. He replies "Is there any reason why you can't just say that nicely?" 

I was a little shocked, mostly because I really couldn't think of a good reason! What did I think my harsh tone would accomplish? Did I really think replying with a poor attitude and a demeaning spirit was going to somehow help his brain store that information better? It was a little embarrassing. I'm so grateful my husband is such a laid back person, willing to reconcile at the slightest hint of an apology. I halfway mumbled, "Uh, well, I guess not." and he just went happily along, unloading the rest of the dishwasher. 

This encounter is recalled in my memory at least once a week. It applies to virtually every heated conversation you might have, and in my childrearing and homeschooling this little nugget is a frequented piece of advice. When I feel like raising my voice, if I can recall this little thought and "Just Do It", our day goes so much more smoothly. When I feel exasperated at a child who cannot shower in less than 20 minutes, if I can kindly remind him to finish up quickly, our entire interaction is pleasant instead of me feeling shame in how I spoke, and him feeling the guilt of my scorn. When I walk into a giant disaster in virtually any room in our home, if I can ever so sweetly remind my children how to treat their toys, or my stuff, or encourage them to clean up what they aren't using, everyone has much kinder hearts toward one another.

I just have to do it. Fake it 'til you make it. This is not a bad thing! Why would faking a pleasant tone (which most young children won't even realize is fake) be a bad way to talk to our children? Why would speaking kindly instead of explosively ever be a poor decision?  That poor decision of speaking in anger or frustration is a decision I make too often. But my husband's little piece of advice has been a life-saver for me. I forget to grab hold of it many days, but I can see myself making small steps toward speaking in love more consistently. Don't misunderstand me, I don't always feel like being loving, and I don't expect to ever feel like a loving person all the time. I am human. I will mess up. I will never be perfect all the time or react the right way all the time. None of us will.

This is why I think "Just Do It" applies so well to these types of situations. When we know love is the best option, but we cannot muster the courage to genuinely love in that moment, we can use loving words to prevent the onslaught that might otherwise occur. We can choose a pleasant tone to guide our children, guiding them away from shame or fear, and guarding our hearts from escalating into  turmoil over our sin. Truthfully, we can never muster genuine love in ourselves anyway, it is a gift from God. Ask for this gift from Him, ask to feel loving toward your husband, your children, and the people you encounter every day. But don't sit there and wait to feel loving, starting wars with your words and damaging your littles along the way. You're never too far gone to start practicing kind words. And actually, maybe the further gone you are, the more your loved ones will see the change. 

So please, Just Do It. Speak kind words. Even through clenched teeth. It is still better than the alternative. And while you are at it, give those kind words to those you love via email, Facebook, the phone, in person, even to the random stranger behind the coffee counter. There can never be too many kind words floating around. They are free, they redeem so much more than we can imagine, and they offer you an entryway into a legacy of kindness few leave behind these days. Don't worry about how terrible your habits might be, or how far you'll need to go in order to be labeled "kind" by those you know. It's so much better to start now than waiting until tomorrow. Just like moaning over how long it'll take to get in the shower and get ready, it takes longer to do it the longer you wait to start!

Feel free to steal from my easy list and dive in on that kind-words-habit tonight.

Instead of:

- Hey, don't touch that!
- Come on, finish that math paper right now!
- Goodness gracious, can you get any slower?
- Why did you leave your plate out again?
- What were you thinking? 


- No, no. That's not for touching sweety.
- Keep going on that math paper, you can do it!
- Let's try to move a little faster. Can I help you out?
- Hey bud, looks like you left your plate on the table again. Can you clear it please?
- Hmm, why did you do that? What did you think was going to happen?

I know this seems kind of cheesy, and maybe you think this is being totally fake. But I cannot tell you what a difference it makes in our day when I am intent on speaking love to my family, even on days where I feel it is an impossible task. It is amazing what humbling myself and being obedient in this small thing does for my heart towards all of them. In turn, their love for me becomes even more evident, spurring us all on together towards love and goodness. What can it hurt? Give it a try and tell me what you think! I'll leave you with this wisdom from Solomon…

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up strife." Psalm 15:1

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