So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. -Matthew 7:12
When Jesus spoke of doing unto others, He referred to an attitude of being proactive in how we relate to people around us. We desire to be treated with respect, dignity, kindness, and mercy. Therefore, if we desire to be treated this way, we must demonstrate such conduct to the world. Our words carry great weight. Consider what we say and how we say it. Are we tearing people down or building them up? One kind word has the power to alter someone’s outlook, especially if the person is feeling down. Sadly, the reverse is true. One harsh or inconsiderate word can bring someone down from the positive mindset he or she was enjoying.
Many years ago while serving on staff at a church in another state, I was attending a church sponsored fellowship. Door prizes were awarded, and since I rarely win anything, I was pleased to have won the incredible prize of five free trips to a tanning salon. I had no intention of using them as wild horses couldn't drag me into a tanning bed, but I remarked to the person next to me about the prize. The person sitting next to me, an elderly woman named Francis, replied, “Well, you need a trip to the tanning salon; you always look so pale and sickly.” Ouch! That still stings. People make odd statements to each other and sometimes the words are bewildering. When we speak uplifting words to others, we receive wonderful rewards. We encourage others, and we come away from the encounter feeling better.
Here are my seven things we ought never to say to others:
1. Are you okay? You look so sad. No one wants to be told this. I have had moments where I felt fine, and someone goes out of his or her way to comment on my sorrowful expression. Nothing is to be gained from this statement.
2. You look tired. If you were feeling wide awake before, chances are you’re feeling sleepy after someone tells you this.
3. Wow, you've lost a lot of hair. There is no need to ever tell a man he is going bald. I am one of these lucky men who started going bald in my thirties, and yes, I am reminded of it from time to time. The next time you’re tempted to say this, stop and remember the person no doubt saw himself in the mirror within the last hour. He knows he’s going bald.
4. Wow, you've really put on some weight. This ranks right up there with asking a woman if she’s pregnant. She may not be. Someone has sarcastically suggested that we ought never to ask a woman if she’s pregnant unless she is in the actual act of giving birth. That, or if she’s wearing one of those shirts with an arrow pointing down to her stomach that reads, “Baby on the way.” As with hair loss, people are fully aware of how much they weigh and how they look. Few of us appreciate being told we have put on weight. The only time this might be acceptable would be if the person is a cancer patient who had lost dozens of pounds, is now in remission, and is finally looking healthy again. Otherwise, the topic is best left alone.
5. You are way too thin. You should gain some weight. What is a healthy weight anyway? Unless you are a doctor conferring with your patient, such advice is best left unsaid.
6. Are you feeling all right? You look sick. Why anyone would ever feel the need to utter this statement to someone is beyond me, but I know it happens. As with telling someone how tired he looks, when we tell someone he or she looks sick, the person might begin wondering about it and start actually feeling ill. Such is the power of suggestion.
7. I don't care. What people need are affirming and encouraging words. If you have had the unpleasant situation of sharing your thoughts with someone only to be told he or she doesn't care you know how this hurts. These words convey that you aren't important and I do not have time to listen to you.
Compliments, kind words, joyful words, and words that encourage and build people up are always appropriate. Leave the negative statements alone. Resolve to speak only what helps others. You have the power to make or break someone’s day. Help make it a great day. Check back later as I'll be sharing my list of things we ought to say to others.
So, what bizarre things have people said to you? I would love to hear from you today. As always, you may comment anonymously.
God bless you.