I recently heard a story about a little group of frogs. The frogs had decided they were going to climb to the top of a tall, tall tower and excitedly shared this goal with the other frogs in the community. The big day arrived, and the frogs began climbing. As the spectators observed, the frogs climbed upward, their speed slowing the higher they went. The frogs watching below yelled out things like, “Stop while you’re ahead” and “You’re never going to make it to the top.” One by one, the frogs began to give up, their goal unreached. Meanwhile, one frog kept pushing forward, eyes upward. The onlookers continued to share their thoughts on his progress, stating he should stop like the others, especially when he would slip or slow down. But after a period of time, he reached the top. Turns out, the frog was deaf. He hadn’t heard a word that was said (shouted!) by the others.
There are numerous ways to apply this story, but for me, it is currently most applicable in regard to children. As my 3 year old continues to strive for the world record of cutest human sponge, in that she soaks up EVERYTHING around her, I have begun to realize more and more the power of words in our lives, even in shaping our futures.
This isn’t a new concept, as the Bible speaks on this subject repeatedly. The book of James addresses the power of the tongue in particular. James 3:3-5 says, “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or takes ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.”
I love those verses- the imagery is powerful in and of itself, but the truths illustrated by that imagery blow me away. Especially when I think about my influence as a parent on the way my children see themselves as they develop. My husband and I both try hard not to compare one to the other, especially in front of them, and I try to be careful with how I speak to them, particularly when I am angry! I believe that as a parent, my words serve as the paintbrush to my kids’ canvases, and I want my strokes to help them become the beautiful masterpieces that God created them to be. Our words can serve as part of a self-fulfilling prophecy for those we love, especially when it comes to the vulnerable heart of a child. Even when it is obvious we love our children, commenting on bad behavior in front of others while in front of the child, or regularly communicating that our child is naughty, wild, stubborn, etc. often results in the child becoming more so over time. Of course, telling a child that they are perfect, never do anything wrong, and are entitled to everything is also damaging- this is part of what has shaped the current princess mentality (speaking of girls specifically of course).
There are definitely times I struggle to keep my tongue in check, especially when my little girl is being outright defiant and has danced on my last nerve to the point of breaking it. These times are difficult, but I have found that it is the moments where I’m not angry, where I may even say something jokingly, that I have to watch, because those are the times I am less aware.
Proverbs 15:4 states, “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.”
How tragic to break the spirit of another, intentional or not. James says that “no human being can tame the tongue” (James 3:7), so where does that leave us? I know for me, I can work on guarding the words that come out of my mouth with all the security I can muster, but even that is not enough. Man may not be able to tame the tongue, but God certainly can, so I must entrust the words of my mouth to my Savior and pray that He will work in me and help me keep my mouth shut when my words lean towards spirit-breaking rather than life-building. And I think I just heard my husband say “Amen”.
But seriously, children take our words to heart. It is absolutely worth it to ensure that they don’t need to be deaf in order to see themselves as God sees them- brimming with beautiful, precious potential.