I got a devotional in my email today from Lysa Terkeurst of Proverbs 31 (if you don't get them already, you can sign up for them here) that was so awesome I had to share. It was about some things I've already been feeling strongly about and I loved, loved, loved reading her words that echoed my feelings. In a nutshell, she starts out by saying that she feels convicted about empty statements. Things that you say in the moment because they feel comfortable, whether you actually mean them or not. Most of us probably do mean them in the moment but if we don't keep our promises, do they end up being hurtful instead of helpful? Lysa likens these empty statements to holding out a gift but refusing to give it.
How often are we all guilty of this? With everyone being SO busy ALL the time, we often say things we don't deliver on. But what if we stopped talking and just did it? Say what you mean and mean what you say. Isn't that how the old adage goes?
Here are the three statements Lysa brought up. Ones that I identified with and I'm sure a lot of you can do.
1. I'll pray for you.
Believers and non-believers alike often say "I'll pray for you," "You're in my prayers," "My thoughts and prayers are with you." But if you just say the words and don't follow through and actually pray for them, your words become meaningless. Most of the time, our intentions are good. We usually mean it when we say it. But then life happens... your child needs help with homework, your car breaks down, you have to work late. Before you know it, the day has come and gone and that prayer was never prayed.
What to do about it:
- When you say you'll pray for someone, STOP. Pray in that very moment. It doesn't have to be long and drawn out, but praying as soon as you can will help you remember and stay true to your word. I can't remember who I heard this from a long time ago but it's stuck with me and I've tried to do that ever since. I've prayed walking through the mall, behind my steering wheel driving and in front of my computer at work.
- Carry a prayer list with you all the time. My pastor talks often about the prayer list that he keeps on his computer. I think it's a great idea and I've thought often how much I have to start one so I will remember to pray for everyone that needs my prayers. I have yet to do it though so I'm going to do what Lysa suggests and start carrying a small notepad in my purse to write down prayer requests.
2. Let's get together sometime.
Oh, is this a huge pet peeve of mine. I can't even tell you how often I've heard those words said to me and then never heard from or seen the person who spoke them. Again, I know that they meant it in the moment. They did want to "get together sometime" but again, if you just say that and then never actually get together with the person, then the words have no meaning. In fact, they may become hurtful over time. This is one I've definitely made a conscious effort about changing for myself because I used to say it all the time too. Now, I try to get a date and time set with someone right away and believe me, it's like pulling teeth sometimes but I've found it's usually the only way that you actually end up getting together!
What to do about it:
- When you say "we should get together sometime" to someone OR they say it to you, schedule it right at that moment. Taking the time to look at your calendar and set a date with someone shows that they are important to you and you intend to follow through. One of you may end up needing to reschedule (did I mention everyone is way too busy these days?) but initially setting a date makes you a lot more likely to actually get together than if you didn't.
- If you truly are too busy to get together, say that. Most people (especially women) are people pleasers so we don't want to disappoint anyone. But making a promise in the moment that you can't keep is a lot more disappointing than being honest in the moment and telling someone you're too busy to get together. You save them from being disappointed or hurt and you can make a genuine effort later when you are available.
3. I'm good, how are you?
When I was little... I couldn't even tell you what age... I remember going to the doctor with my mom. I think I had a sore throat. The pediatrician walked in the room, said hi to me and asked me how I was. Of course I said "fine." Isn't that the automatic response to that question that gets programmed into us at a very young age? My charismatic doctor was quick to respond though with a witty "then what are you doing here?!" Ba-dum-ching. There's a lot of truth to that interaction though. How often do we robotically say we're fine when really inside we are sad, angry, in pain or depressed?
Sure, there are times when this is the appropriate response. If you're just greeting your mailman or a stranger on the street, you don't want to launch into a diatribe about all your woes or then you will be that crazy person. But if you are talking to a friend or family member, you should be able to answer that question honestly. As they should be able to as well when you ask them. In fact, being real with them might just give them the green light to open up to you in return.
What to do about it:
- Be real! The next time a friend or acquaintance asks you how you're doing, don't be a robot. Be authentic. You don't have to go into detail if you don't feel comfortable enough with them to discuss details of your life. A simple "I'm feeling a little overwhelmed but trying to stay organized" is still a lot more honest than "I'm great!" You might get a few weird looks or fumbled responses at first but in my opinion, it'd be a refreshing change to hear someone be honest about how they're feeling. Why do you think we're all walking around feeling so pressured to put on a happy face and act like everything is okay? Because we believe that everyone else has it together so we have to fit in! Only problem with that is, they're not really okay either!
- Let your friends and acquaintances know that it's okay to be real with you too. Let them know they are safe when they talk to you. If you see pain behind their smile, delve a little deeper. Let them know they don't have to put up a front with you. There is nothing better for a relationship than real, true intimacy. After all, isn't that what friends are for?
Are your words filled with truth? Or are you running on empty?