Hope and I were working together in my office. I don’t remember what I said. I do remember what she said in response: “Don’t talk to my dad that way.”
The next day, I was running, listening to Jamie Ivey talking with Jon Acuff about his new book, Soundtracks. It’s about the overthinking we do, the scripts that we repeat over and over about ourselves. In the podcast, he suggests three tests for the things we say about ourselves to ourselves: Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it kind?
That last one is exactly what Hope was talking about at that moment, although there were shades of all three. It wasn’t true, it wasn’t helpful, and it wasn’t at all kind.
Two days later, Hope and Nancy and I were helping the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir get ready for the spring concert, the first live concert in 18 months. One of the directors was worrying out loud about an activity she’d created to help young singers bide their time during the long wait. It was remarkable and creative. She wasn’t sure at all. I said, “Don’t talk to my friend that way.”
When Paul writes to a group of people he’s heard about but never met, he wants to encourage them to act toward others in a way that’s rooted in understanding their own value. He writes, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
We can find lots of examples of how we don’t dress up in that invitation. Our conversations with and about others show that all the time. But many of us aren’t compassionate or kind or patient or gentle with ourselves. It’s no wonder we’re mean to others.
If, as Paul says, we actually are dearly loved by God, perhaps we should change how we talk to ourselves. It may change how we talk to others, too.