Written for House of Hope blog
Picture this. Big girl is in the kitchen. Mom is sitting at the table. Little sister is standing next to big girl.
Big girl goes to the refrigerator and opens the door. As she pulls out the milk, a pint of blueberries falls out onto the floor and breaks open, spreading blueberries all over the floor.
Freeze the action!
What does the big girl say to herself?
What does the mom say to the big girl?
What does the little girl say to the big girl?
If you were that big girl, what words might be coming out of your mouth or thoughts flying into your head?
If you were the mom and your child just spilled all those blueberries, what would you find coming out of your mouth?
Let me venture a guess.
Big girl might say, “I am so stupid!.”
Mom might say, “Ahh! Why didn’t you watch what you were doing? What a mess!”
Little girl says, “You’re always so clumsy. What a loser.”
Does any of this sound familiar?
We have a habit of talking to ourselves in ways that we would never talk to others, unless….those others are our children or ourselves.
How often I have said mean things to myself or heard parents snap at their children: “You are so bad! Quit that right now! Stop being so wild! You’re always so loud. Stop that! How many times do I have to tell you to stop that!!! You are so self centered! Settle down! Don’t make me come back there!!! You are so mean. You are just too much. Why do you ALWAYS spill your milk? Grow up! We don’t throw sand! What’s wrong with you? You know better than that!”
Need I go on?
No. I think we all get the point.
But I believe there is another way to react to the spilling of the blueberries:
Big girl spills the blueberries and says, “Oh no!”
Mom says,” It’s Ok, I’ll help you clean them up.”
Little sister says,” It’s ok to make mistakes. I’ll help you too.”
This second scenario offers a gentler view that does not shame or embarrass and keeps mom and the girl on the same side, allies, not enemies. Mom has her girl’s back. She teaches that if you make a mistake, its OK, but, if possible, you must make it right. You clean it up and you move on. Little sister makes the true statement that its ok to make mistakes; it is not the end of the world. We all make them so lets get busy and clean up. the. darn. blueberries. already!
When I did something wrong my mother used to say, “Just a little pointer. Next time, Dee Dee, be sure to look at what else is around the milk before pulling it out of the fridge so you don’t spill things.” It was so sweet and kind. She did not embarrass or shame me for not being careful. But next time I could do it right or do it better.
How we talk to our children matters. How we talk to ourselves matters. Let’s stop and listen to ourselves and be determined to build bridges rather than walls. Walls require us to build up a protection against rather than trust, a closing off rather than an opening up. And we don’t want mistrust and self protection to keep us from each other. We want to be safe people who will enable our children to learn and to feel safe with us.
Some might be thinking that this is too hard. Your parents talked to you harshly. You talk to yourself that way. And now you find yourself talking to your children in a similar fashion. How can you change this thing that has been in your family for years?”
The short answer is: You can’t.
But Jesus came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. We could not save ourselves so Jesus came to rescue us from sin and death. We cannot change ourselves either. So Jesus provided a way. He encouraged his disciples just before he was to be crucified. We can find his words in John 14:
“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate
to help you and be with you forever. — the Spirit of truth…
he lives with you and will be in you.”
Jesus was sending the Holy Spirit to be with and in us, to be our advocate, our ally, on our side, to be our helper, the one who is with us: he is our treasure. He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
So the Holy Spirit in us enables change: Change the way we talk to ourselves and change in the way we talk to our children, so that we can hear how lovingly Jesus speaks (again from John 14):
“The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.
I do not give to as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
Ahh, such gentle and kind reminders that Jesus has taken care of it all. He’s got our backs. He has done for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He doesn’t have to shame us or tell us how bad we are. Instead he reminds us that He is with us and will help us to do whatever he asks us to do. We can trust him.
And just a little pointer: next time the blueberries hit the kitchen floor, thank Jesus for how gently he has dealt with you and how the Holy Spirit is with you and loves you so much. Then pick them up with a thankful heart and a gentle grace-filled smile.