We all have said something we wish we could retract the minute it leaves our mouth. But just as toothpaste cannot be put back into the tube, neither can the words from our mouths.
Scripture reminds us of the importance of a timely word
“Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances“ (Proverbs 25:11).
“A man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful is a timely word” (Proverbs 15:23).
“The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word” (Isaiah 50:4).
The Bible also warns of the power of a word misspoken
“He who sings songs to a heavy heart is like him who lays off a garment in cold weather and as vinegar upon soda” (Proverbs 25:20).
“If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or takes an oath to bind himself with a binding obligation, he shall not violate his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth” (Numbers 30:2).
And, new widows hold onto every word that is said, especially words of promise
I will be there for you. I won’t leave your side. You can count on me! And yet, as time passes so does the commitment made. False hope is given followed by unmet expectations. This adds an extra layer of pain for the one who has been left alone, often in desperate need of help. We are often well-meaning when we make these promises, but all too often “life gets in the way!”
7 add-ons to avoid
- I will be there for you.
- I will mentor your children
- Let me know how I can help.
- I will take care of your home repairs.
- You will never have to worry about a thing.
- We will take care of you.
6 tips for giving the best response in times of suffering
- I am so sorry for your pain
- Don’t add an example of your own similar pain and don’t offer a positive sentiment like, ”they are with Jesus, God will use this for good.”
- I cannot imagine what you must be feeling.
- Don’t compare grief by sharing a loss you experienced.
- Don’t tack on a commitment to help and not follow through.
- I always loved (share a memory) about the loved one.
- Don’t stop sharing stories of their loved one. Surprisingly, these sentiments are always welcomed. For example, one thing I admired about your husband is_______________. Or, __________________ taught me_______________.
- There is no way I can understand what you are going through, but I want to try.
- Don’t say I understand and then go on to mention your upcoming vacation or special family time.
- Don’t underestimate the gift of compassion.
- I don’t know what to say, but I do care and love you.
- Don’t add on a statement that could be mistaken for a commitment of action.
- Don’t negate the power of presence – just being there without words.
- I will take your son to football practice every week or I will cut your grass.
- Don’t forget to follow through! It is helpful to put a time frame on the commitment. I will take your son to football practice every Thursday or I will cut your grass this summer.
- Don’t leave them without help if you are unable to keep the commitment made.