Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Say What You Mean

"Oh just go in the water," I had said to my 3 year old son when he announced, "I have to pee." I had just trekked across a half a mile of deep sand, towing 2 small children, a cooler, chairs, assorted toys, towels, and sunscreen. With no spouse on hand, and the nearest restroom nowhere in sight, I was instructing my toddler to take the easy, albeit somewhat gross, way out.

Chris took me at my word and pranced up to the water's edge. Without actually entering the water he proceeded to tinkle. "That's not what I meant!" I exclaimed, horrified, as his little yellow sprinkle arched into the air. To make matters worse he began rotating his trunk right to left like a lawn sprinkler. Good-natured beach walkers giggled and gave him a very wide berth. When they glanced in my direction I commented, "Little boy does your mom know you're doing that?"

I still smile at that memory from many years ago. What I meant to say was, "Just walk into the water up to your waist and go while no one is looking." This was definitely not the most sanitary or environmentally responsible parental instruction I had ever given, not to mention that when my awful advice was placed on public display, I was ready to disown my own kid! But, I was busted because I really didn't say what I meant.

How many times do we really say what we mean?

"Let's get together." "I'll call." "I'll get back to you." We have all uttered these words and not followed  through.

We've all been on the other end of it too. Usually, it hurts. When my Chris was diagnosed with cancer I learned very quickly who actually meant what they said. The friends who really called are the ones I cherish.

When my other son, Jarrod, was killed suddenly in an accident the whole town showed up for his funeral. There I heard lots of promises to get together. I had just retired from a long-term job. These were people that I had interacted with on a daily basis for years. Only one person from that workplace has called since the funeral to see how I am doing. When promises are made to grieving folks it is essential that they be authentic. Most of us who are grieving don't have the mental energy to chase you down. We count on you to follow through.

Deuteronomy 23:23: " You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth."

Or have we told people what we thought they wanted to hear, when we really had no intention of delivering? "Sure, as soon as I get a chance." "All right, put it on my desk, and I'll see what I can do." Many of us, including myself, have been guilty of people pleasing. But when we do this too often, people stop trusting us.

Because of my son's diagnosis I became involved in cancer fundraising. This led me to ask others for financial donations. The people pleasers uttered empty promises and never delivered. One friend kept assuring me that her husband's company would sponsor our event when she hadn't even checked with the administration. After calling her four or five times, she finally told me that they could not contribute. Her empty promise stood by like a disowned kid. I had more respect for the folks who told me up front that they weren't in a position to help.

James 5:12: "But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation."

We all know what happens when we say "no" to our children at first, then give in. They learn very quickly that we don't really mean it. They become manipulative. The same holds true for our adult relationships. If  anyone has ever taken advantage of you repeatedly, they most likely did it with your permission. As a wise person once said, "No is a complete sentence."

Most importantly, when we say "Yes!" we must be prepared to deliver. Perhaps you know someone right now who is waiting for your "yes" to happen. The promised coffee or lunch awaits. A simple phone call is a wonderful gift. A shout out on social media doesn't count!

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. If you can cook, babysit, mow a lawn, run an errand, make a donation, run a 5k, or just sit and hold someone's hand this is the time to say what you mean and mean what you say! Otherwise, you're just peeing in the water.