Ever since I became a mom, I developed what I refer to as a mother tongue. I call every kid that enters my house, “Love,” I utter compilations of words that I never would have imagined go together like, “Don’t put that cantaloupe in the washing machine,” and I regularly tell outrageous stories that I am sure my kids will recount with equal parts fondness and embarrassment when they are older.
Every mom I know has a mother tongue, but not all of them know that it comes with tremendous responsibility, the responsibility to let love be our loudest voice. Our words shape our world, and the way we respond to everyone we encounter, not only our kids, is some of the most important work we will do in our lifetime.
I frequently get asked this question: “How do we balance truth and love as people of faith?” To be honest, I think this is the wrong question. It seems to me that a better question is: “How do we love so loudly that truth can be heard?”
Here are four ways to let love be our mother tongue and the loudest voice people hear.
Forfeit Your Right to Be Offended
Taking offense has become a national pastime. We feel affronted by other people’s choices and ideologies, and have made responding to these offenses a lifestyle – an exhausting and unlovely lifestyle. One thing I notice about Jesus is that he encountered people in all sorts of moral messes, yet, was never taken aback, never indignant and never took offense. Jesus saw the fullness of each situation, then offered dignity like Kim Kardashian takes selfies – freely and without constraint. Once it was clearly established that he was more concerned with fullness of life than condemnation, then the honest talk happened.
When we find ourselves chronically offended by other people’s bad driving, sexual orientation or political leanings, perhaps it is an opportunity to evaluate how it is serving us. Because being perpetually offended is exhausting. Not to mention that the frequency with which we get offended is often directly correlated to the size of our ego. The more often we feel offended, the more our ego gets to prove it’s “right.” The question then becomes: Do we care more about validating our ego and losing our voice, or living unoffended and gaining influence? Can you imagine how our relationship with the people around us would improve if we forfeited any inclination toward taking offense, and instead put all of that energy toward letting love be our default reaction?
I have four friends with the wise words of Psalms 46:10 inked on their wrist, Be Still. The guttural response to this message illustrates those who strive relentlessly and feel chronically exhausted because of it – a mantra demanding permanence on their skin. A daily reminder to cease striving and know that God is God. But it becomes something even more significant when you understand that those words were spoken in the aftermath of a battle. Brant Hansen in his book, Unoffendable, describes how the original Hebrew words of this passage implied stopping the fight, letting go and relaxing. When we look at this message in the context of the battlefield of our words, it means no more defensiveness. No more taking things personally. God’s got it. Rest. It means we quit offering advice when zero people ask for it. Quit fighting battles that aren’t ours and verbally sparring about things that don’t matter. We need only to be still, in actions and words.
Loud love means we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Instead, we humbly look inward before we gaze outward. We are honest with ourselves about the ways we have deeply wounded others, or lied, or ran a red light or did things with our bodies that felt dirty. Because facing our own demons, we remember we stand on equal footing with everyone else who has fallen short of perfection. This posture helps us to focus on our own healing, allowing us to lead others to restoration because we have done the hard work ourselves. This posture of seeing our own brokenness first, makes us less harsh, more humble and easier to hear.
Part of letting love be our loudest voice means that we reject the norm to join another person’s pity party. Instead of commiserating, elevate the conversation. Rather than saying, “You poor thing, I’m in the same boat,” instead say, “Got it, hear you and guess what? Yes, you can do it. I am standing with you. We are going to make it happen together!” Loving loudly means speaking hope into desperate situations and speaking calm into chaos.
Words are powerful tools that come with tremendous responsibility. May love be on the tip of your mother tongue and may you shout it so loud and clear that truth and love become indistinguishable.
Mandy Arioto is the President and CEO of MOPS International, and is widely known for her unique takes on parenting, relationships, spiritual and cultural issues. Through MOPS, which influences millions of moms through thousands of groups internationally, Mandy serves as the voice of one of the most influential parenting organizations in the U.S. and around the world. She and her husband, Joe, live in Denver, Colorado with their three awesome kids. @mandyarioto
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