This article was written some months ago when my husband was in hospital.
Our responsibility as Proverbs 31 Women isn’t just to our family but to those who surround us too. Verse 15 speaks of the ‘servant girls’, verse 20 the ‘poor and needy’, verse 24 of ‘merchants’ and verse 31 talks of the ‘city gate’. In other words, everyone we are in community with.
Verse 26 says ‘She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue’ and while much of this passage relates to the family of the Proverbs 31 Woman, I believe we are encouraged to conduct ourselves in such a way towards all we encounter and have some kind of personal interaction with our friends, neighbours, colleagues, clients, and anyone else we should have contact with.
And so it is with this preface that I encourage you to think carefully about what you say and to whom. In particular the ‘negative speak’ that often enters our head and exits our mouths before we’ve really thought about it.
Case in point: My husband is currently in hospital due to a serious accident he had 6 weeks ago. He suffered spinal cord injury and partial paralysis. Let me first say he is recovering and we’ve been told he can expect 95% full recovery within a 12 month period. This is wonderful and we look forward to that. However, in his first week he was really worried that he might be permanently paralysed and at times he was concerned he might die. He was worried about what he’d done to our relationship and our future together.
I knew he was depressed in those first couple of weeks, as did his best friend and I’d shared with our Pastors too. We all worked at building up his spirits, encouraging him and praising him with each new development as he began to sit up again, regain his ability to walk unaided and relearning to use his right hand. Each day he is able to do a new thing again, small perhaps, but they count and he is making progress.
What I can’t understand is why people (who are otherwise well-meaning) should start relating stories to him of others they’d heard who’d had accidents and died, who’d never recovered, who’d returned home only to have something go wrong and so on. What kind of encouragement is this to my husband? It makes my job, and that of those of us encouraging him, all the more harder.
It seems that ‘bad news’ is told better and travels faster than ‘good news’. I encourage you to consider Ephesians 4:29 ‘Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen‘. In other words, if it won’t encourage or build up someone, then don’t say it at all. Especially when they’re down, or convalescing.
While my husband may appear to be his ‘normal self’ when chattering, the reality is he’s still very vunerable and fragile emotionally and, for the most part, is not in an environment where people are working to build up his spirits, but rather to heal his body. I am glad he feels he can text or ring me when he needs me to build him up and encourage him. He knows he will always get that from me. But it is sad that I have to keep ‘putting out fires’ and extinguishing the bad that someone else has conjured up in his mind simply because they had a ‘good’ (but sad) story to tell.
If you are planning to spend time with someone who is getting better, no matter what from, please don’t start pulling out bad luck or sad stories to tell these people. They don’t need them. What they do need are positive stories that will build hope and encourage them in getting better themselves. Even funny stories, as long as they don’t have bad endings, can help. Or say nothing at all and just listen to the patient talk about what they need to talk about. You being a listener is far better for them and healing, than listening to a story that will have them worrying long after you’ve stopped talking to them and gone on to something else.
Bless the people you speak with, don’t mess them up.