Honey & Vinegar

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Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.  Proverbs 16:24

A few posts back, I asked with sincerity if our country would be okay after an election season that was…stranger than fiction.

The story so far, not a great one. We are a severely divided, aggressively torn nation. It honestly feels like navigating an entirely new place some days. 

I’m learning to ask more questions, offer fewer answers. I’m learning due diligence and patience. And if my family’s journey with E so far has taught me anything at all, it’s that dispensing grace to those I don’t understand opens up the conversation and makes room for what seemed impossible. When I actually humble myself, God shows up every time. Humility has been my church these past few months.

There’s a saying that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, but that’s not my aim when I intentionally approach a conversation with kindness. I’m not trying to catch flies.

I’m trying to preserve my voice.

This is the only one I get. I want to use it well. I want it to be clear and loud when I choose to speak out. I want people to want to hear me. When my voice feels tired and tender, it makes more sense to me to ease the discomfort with something sweet (genuinely sweet; insincerity, fake sweetness won’t do) and soothing.  Vinegar has many wonderful purposes, but with all its acidity, being a comfort to something in a scratched-up state isn’t one of them.

My words come up and out and through, and they can be one or the other.

How many ways are there to say something? So many. Am I any less passionate about the issue on the table because I choose to treat someone with whom I disagree with courtesy and love? No, I’m not. Do I stand to learn something by listening? Always. Do I regret when I pause before responding? Never.

To some, I’m aware this seems far too soft. I get that, I see your frustration. But assuming that grace lacks power, or that kindness shows some weakness of conviction is false. I’ve been sitting in the tension for a while now, long before this past election season, and it’s certainly taught me some things.

Our words, our approach, can fill a gap or create a wedge. Isn’t the chasm wide enough as it is? How can minds meet when you discredit someone’s intelligence before a conversation begins? How can you hear someone else’s heart when you’re just waiting for your turn to speak?

I won’t pretend to know how to stitch us all back up, but I know that the way it’s going right now never will.

Standing up for your beliefs, calling out and fighting injustice- these things are beautiful and necessary. But we cannot trample other humans. Full stop. We cannot destroy our relationships with assumptions, and condescension in the name of peace. We can be courageous, even controversial, without being cruel.

Protect your voice. Make sure you are using it to bring life, make sure you are speaking where it matters. Rest it when needed or you won’t have one at all.

And when it stings, when it feels bitter…coat it with honey if you can find some.

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