The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Proverbs 14:1 (NIV)
This verse haunts me.
And inspires me.
I am a woman. I want to be a wise woman. I certainly do not want to be a foolish woman.
And I want to be a woman who builds, not one who tears things down. Certainly not one who tears people down. Yet this verse implies that it is possible for me to do just that. It is possible for me to tear down my family with my own bare hands.
So this verse haunts me. And it leads me to ask some questions. Am I tearing down my family? Am I slowly demolishing my husband or my kids? And what is inside of me that could possibly drive me to this? Selfishness. Pride. The desire to be right. Lack of awareness of my own emotions. Shame - felt or given. Bitterness. A lack of patience. An unexamined history repeating itself in the present. Wow. There are so many things that can lead me to destruction.
While I am unlikely (though nothing is impossible) to dismantle my physical house with my hands, taking out one brick at a time, I am much more likely to dismantle my home with my words. All these tendencies inside my spirit are like termites doing unseen damage, poking out occasionally as a sharp tongue, a quick temper, a sarcastic comment. I, myself, am carrying around the negative potential to discourage, demoralize and crush my home with my bare words. Yikes.
So what are the words that tear down my house... my family... my children... my husband? Words like...
How could you do such a thing?
Get over it.
You make me so angry.
That is so not a big deal.
Don't make a scene.
What will our neighbors/grandparents/friends think about this?
Why can't you be like other kids?
Why can't you be like other men?
You always/never do that!
You wouldn't understand.
I don't care what you think.
You are so difficult... lazy... dumb... useless... shy... loud... obnoxious... mean...
I don't have time to deal with you.
You'll never be able to do that.
Get out of my face.
And so many others. Words that may not sound so terrible in the moment but which remove small bricks of confidence, self-worth, affection, respect, empathy.
Yet this verse also inspires me because it says I have the ability to build. I can build a solid house by my words and actions. A house full of people who are confident in who God created them to be. People who are empowered to speak up for themselves and others. People who try new things and give their best effort. People who are free to feel, to express themselves, to set boundaries, to live well.
What are the words that build up my children and my husband?
I believe in you.
I am here for you.
I'm sorry that happened.
You can do hard things.
How can I help?
It's okay to not feel okay.
Your best effort is enough.
I'm sorry, I was wrong.
I love seeing you succeed!
Tell me about it.
I am so proud of the person you are.
You can say no if you are uncomfortable.
You are so fun... energetic... joyful... smart... responsible... beautiful... loyal...
I love you just the way you are.
Let me know if I can support you.
You belong here.
I appreciate you.
The words I saw to my husband can empower or emasculate his spirit. The phrases my children hear from me will eventually become their inner voice. That's a lot of responsibility. Some days it truly scares me. But at the same time it inspires me to be better. My words matter - not just for today, but for days and years to come.
Brick by brick, word by word, I am building a house with my bare hands.