Sunday, July 3, 2011

Soft Hands, Gentle Words

People who know me now would probably be surprised--at least I hope they would be surprised!--but when I was growing up, I had a very sharp tongue, especially when it came to my two younger brothers. As the big sister, much older than both of them (one by 6 years and the other by almost 13 years), I was sometimes left in charge as the built in babysitter, and unfortunately I got very good at using my sharp tongue as a weapon of control.

During this time I can remember my parents' efforts to help me with this.  My daddy used his sense of humor and would tell me to be "Gentle like Charmin." My sweet mom would gently but firmly work to temper my speech into something more gentle, more loving, less cutting and less superior in my tone (tone of voice was big in our family). She would often remind me of a Bible verse that made God's thoughts on this perfectly clear,

"Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight." 1 Peter 3:4 NIV

While I was slowly learning this lesson at home, I was learning a parallel skill in the dusty arena of my horseback riding lessons:

Ride with soft hands.

This is the art of working with a horse, and with the motion of his head as he moves, so you can guide him where you want him to go without jerking or yanking, without unnecessary tugging and harsh pulling on the bit in his sensitive mouth. The simple flex or release of one ring-finger on the reins can be enough to gently tell your horse what you want him to do. Riding with soft hands makes for a much more relaxed horse and a better relationship between horse and rider.

I can thankfully say that I've come a long way since my early struggle to tame the sharpness of my tongue. But sadly, sometimes that old bad habit catches me in an unguarded moment and lashes out when it shouldn't. Yesterday, Drummer Boy was the recipient of my mental lapse and I snapped off a biting reply to a tone of voice I didn't like with no compassionate thought as to why he might be feeling short-tempered and impatient. Hero Husband came alongside me and actually paid me a lovely compliment when he told me that my response to Drummer Boy in that moment hadn't sounded at all like "a Shaunie response." His soft-handed approach to heading me back in the right direction was so gentle, I had no inclination to do anything but agree and go apologize to a very forgiving Drummer Boy, only after thanking Hero Husband for his help.

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, 
   but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1 NIV
"The soothing tongue is a tree of life,
   but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit."  Proverbs 15:4 NIV

Soft hands and gentle words should never be misunderstood as weakness, just as harsh words and heavy-handedness are never signs of real strength. It takes a strong character, one made strong by the Holy Spirit's enabling, to choose a gentle answer and a soothing tongue, even when emotions are flaring hot. I pray that in all our relationships we will demonstrate the beauty and strength of soft hands and gentle words as we cultivate "a gentle and quiet spirit," which delights God's heart!
How do you think our culture has influenced us away from "a gentle and quiet spirit?"
How will you practice using a soft hands/gentle words approach to your relationships?


Joining Ann Voskamp in counting His graces for her Multitudes on Monday
I hope you'll join in if you haven't already!
In the counting of the endless gifts I say with C. S. Lewis,
"This also is Thou!"

596. An Invitation from Hero Husband
597. The true story Hero Husband can tell of being an overcomer
598. Rain in June
599. Afghan food at the Farmer's Market
600. Homemade Triple Berry Shortcake (and the discovery of golden raspberries!)
601. "The King's Speech"
602. Fleeting look at a Red-tail Hawk up close
603. A Scottish accent
604. Family DREAM Summit around the dining room table
605. Photo shoot fun with She So Sweet and her *friend*
606. Blessed time with friends who have come home after 10 years living in another state!
607. Being able to pray for those same friends who woke up to tragic news today
608. Possible new opportunity for Drummer Boy
609. The smell of bacon frying
610. Knowing that praying, when you're helpless to do anything else, really IS DOING something! (Love you Liaza and Jojo!)

Joining L.L. Barkat for:
On In Around button

Joining Laura Boggess for:

and joining Jen and her Sisterhood:

A heartfelt thank you to these generous bloggers
who make these communities available!


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