Our family vacation was a few weeks ago. We traveled to Michigan, stopping in Pittsburgh on the way there and back. It was a really fun trip. We fit in a couple of neat excursions, ate Michigan’s famous Buddy’s Pizza and marveled at the mountains of Pennsylvania. It was a beautiful trip, but the amount of time on the road wasn’t all that enjoyable. This was the first long distance trip we had ever taken as a family. A twelve hour drive, even split in half, had us in a state of grumpiness that we had not experienced before! When we arrived at our hotel in Pittsburgh on our way back home, our otherwise pleasant vacation took a not so pleasant turn.
In retrospect, I’m sure it wasn’t as horrible as it seemed, but all of our fatigue and emotion seemed to come spilling out all at once. It started with one of our children pinching the other. The pinched child then began to scream loudly in our hotel room. The pincher lied about the pinching. Our other child thought it wise to comment on what transpired with the pinching without having all the facts. It was a mess. Raised voices, tempers flaring and all three children crying! What a great way to end our vacation! Cooler heads soon prevailed, but that few moments in time seemed like an eternity; and honestly, I wish I had responded differently.
One of my favorite scriptures and one of the first passages of scripture I ever memorized is Proverbs 15:1. It reads, “A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger.” Pretty simple, right? The practical application is not always that simple. Looking back on my years of motherhood, I can clearly recall times when my response to my children’s behavior, was to raise my voice and respond angrily, just as I did at the end of our vacation. These moments have been memorable for two main reasons: First, I felt horrible afterwards and second It didn’t really change anything. I may have gotten a temporary response from my child, but not the longstanding change that I was striving for.
Proverbs 15:1 has helped me tremendously. I grew to understand that a “soft answer” doesn’t mean I am relinquishing authority or discipline, it simply means I am in control of how I respond. Soft doesn’t mean passive. I can speak softly to my child and still be serious and clear with my expectations. Grievous, by definition, implies something that makes someone sad or sorrowful. Speaking angrily to my children, usually results in their sadness and my continued anger. By the way, have you ever noticed that when you start yelling it’s really, really hard to stop? I’ve also found it true that when in conflict, if you start off speaking tenderly, it’s easier to stay calm and remain in that place.
The end of our vacation needed a nice dose of soft words. Road-weary parents and over-stimulated children weren’t the best recipe. By God’s grace, we were able to redeem ourselves a bit. The last night of our trip ended with the children having movie night in our hotel room, M & M’s and other treats included. The hubby and I had dinner from one of the eateries nearby. We made it home safely with lots of wonderful memories of our vacation and even more valuable lessons on how we relate to one another within our little family. As a family, we’ve committed to watching our words closely and being mindful of the “grievous" things we might be tempted to say.