Posted By Mrs. Eva H. on April 6, 2010
The signature line I use on message boards or other ways to communicate on the internet is always the same: “Be soft of voice and gentle of bearing.” Somehow that sentence seems to resonate with people because people often ask me where it comes from. It’s the beginning line of the following poem, which to me, describes so much of what I want to be as a woman:
Be soft of voice
and gentle of bearing
Be kind of heart
and tender of hands
Be bright as the morn
and still as the evening
Within you they’ll find
God’s love reborn.
This poem has become a reminder to myself of what I should be. Of course, I fall short more often than I would like to, but over the years that little poem has had a profound influence on me. I remember as a teenager priding myself in a razor-sharp wit that could cut people to the quick if they were being “stupid.” And, in truth, if I do not keep a strong hand on the reins of my tongue, sometimes a sharp analysis of someone’s actions, understanding, or opinions would fall out. I am working towards ridding not just my tongue of these unkind words, but over time, I hope my heart as well will simply banish such thoughts as unworthy. That doesn’t mean becoming blind to other people’s faults, but simply not feeling the need to dwell upon them, nor feeling the desire to point them out unless in the greatest love and in a way that for them is not humiliating but helpful.
We all know some people who delight in “telling it like it is,” “calling a spade a spade,” and “I say this with great love, but what you are doing is …” and so on. Calling a spade a spade is great for gardening tools, but people are somewhat different. There are countless quotes in the bible that show God’s desire for us to speak kindly, with forethought and without malice or even anger. Just to give you a few, here are some examples:
Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.
He who loves a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king for his friend.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers… Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
I am not there yet, but I have made progress. When I taught high school a few years ago, my students commented on the fact that I was “always in a good mood” and had “such patience.” I was glad they could not look into my heart every single day, because I often felt impatient. My words, however, and the way I spoke them seemed at least to show them the reflection of something more beautiful. And that “something,” I believe, is the Lord at work within me.
Of course, the Lord asks for my cooperation with this great work He is doing within me, and some days it feels like a lot of hard work. But recently, I have been getting some unexpected rewards through a little mirror. It actually brings to mind yet another quote:
My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad; my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right
At two and a half years old, my son is in many ways a little mirror. He likes to help us, he likes to mimic what we are doing, and, above all, when he speaks, my husband and I can find our own phrases and words sounding back to us. This goes from little phrases like, “Yay, it fits!” when we are doing puzzles, to even the intonation of the “muhuh” that I sometimes use as a murmur of assent if I am trying to agree with something but do not want to interrupt my husband while he is speaking.
When I recently dropped a cup of orange juice and let out a cry of dismay, followed by an “Oh, silly mommy!” I found him gleefully repeating “silly, silly mommy,” and I had to smile. I realized that “silly mommy” is probably the worst word he can pick up here in this house. That and “stupid computer,” which is only aimed at the machine in front of me in utter frustration when it refuses to work. Still, I’d like to get that one out of my vocabulary too. There is no need for my son to start labeling things as “stupid” just because I am impatient when the computer locks up.
It is wonderful, however, to hear our little word mirror say things like “How are you, sweetie?” when Dadda comes home. While we chuckle and tell him to say “How are you, Dadda?”, we realize that what he picks up in this house are terms of endearment. That the songs he hears are alphabet songs and alleluias, Berlioz, and songs that actually have a melody and can be repeated before anyone without us blushing.
I find a reward now that I never thought of in seeing my son pick up our words and mimic our behaviour towards others. He is two and a half and a rough and tumble, high-energy boy, but there is often such tenderness in some of his gestures that I can only praise God for what he is working in me, and fulfilling in my son.