A couple of weeks ago I was at work, minding my own business. When all of a sudden I felt a sharp pain under my arm. I hadn’t remembered feeling that before and had no idea what could have caused it. Did I pull a muscle? I took a second to recalibrate and continued working. Then, it happened again. And in the same spot. A sharp pain under my arm. I stopped what I was doing and tried to see if I could feel anything but there was nothing there. Except I could feel the area under my arm (ok, you know what, let’s just call it what it is, my arm pit!), I could feel my right arm pit getting very sore and warm. I went to the washroom to see if I could see anything and there were what looked like two little pin pricks, side by side. My first thought was, oh my god, there’s a spider on me! Get it off! Get.It.Off! Which made me want to panic! (I would have then had to have burned the entire place down to a heap of ashes!) But then I turned to my side and THERE! Hanging out on the outside of my shirt, mere inches from the scene of the crime, was a yellow jacket.
Now it all made sense. I honestly don’t remember the last time I got stung, which explains why it took a second for me to figure out what was happening. I quickly flicked him onto the ground and proceeded to murder him before he had a chance to come at me for a hat trick. I ended up going home early from work because of how painful and swollen it became. Not only did the little jerk cause me a lot of pain, he also cost me money because I had to go home early.
I kept thinking the rest of the day how such a tiny little creature is able to cause so much damage. Something the size of a pin prick, can reek so much havoc on a human body. Something that is a million times their size!
On the other side of the spectrum, these little spawns are actually quite beneficial as well, if you can believe it! Did you know that yellow jackets actually pollinate?! And all this time I thought they were absolutely useless for anything other than being a nuisance at outdoor dinner parties. They actually positively contribute to society, in their own little way. They are also predators towards various insects that would destroy plants and crops. So, when you think about it, they help protect our food as well.
It’s amazing, when you think about it, how something so small can have such a large impact. We, as human beings are actually quite similar in that way. In our choices, our actions and habits. We can choose to have a substantial impact, both on others and ourselves in our every day life. It’s up to us whether it’s positive or negative. How does one do that, you say? I’m so glad you asked.
There are three main areas that we are making an impact, whether we realize it or not. On others or ourselves. Our words, our actions and our thoughts/habits.
Our words can be specifically lethal. I’m sure most of us can recall as early back as the grade school playground where we got our first taste of how cruel someone else’s words can be. And I think it’s safe to say that we are all guilty of being on the other side of the equation as well. Being the one who has caused the hurt rather than build somebody up.
It’s taken me a long time to be able to recognize how lethal my own words or actions can be and have been in the past and I have to continue to keep myself in check. All of these years later, I’ve swung towards the opposite end of the spectrum, more or less. I keep certain things or emotions to myself now, for the most part. Especially after the last couple of years and everything that I’ve been through. I hate fighting now. Anytime anyone starts to raise their voice or start an argument or any kind of drama I immediately want to leave the room. It just makes me want to curl up in a ball and cover my ears. Peace is a top priority for me now and I tend to shut out anything that I feel could disturb that.
These days, when I’m feeling hurt or angry, I tend to channel it inward. I’m more aware of the fact that once I say something I can’t take it back. I take a step back and process it alone. I don’t talk about it until I think I can communicate how something made me feel without lashing out. When I don’t know what to do or what to say, I do and say nothing. Or, if something does need to be said in that moment, I have to intentionally choose my words and my tone very carefully. I don’t think most people truly realize how much discipline it takes for me to bite my tongue and keep my mouth shut in certain situations. I am naturally opinionated so it’s a skill I’ve had to intentionally work at. I haven’t “arrived” or mastered it quite yet (none of us have) but it has improved over the years.
The Bible talks about how important our words are in James chapter 3. How our tongue, specifically, is such a small part of our body but if we’re not careful, it can do so much damage. I have felt the negative impact of this first hand, for years, which is why I’ve had such a change of heart and mind set shift the last couple of years. My words could mean the difference in making or breaking someone’s day. Or more importantly, their spirit. I know what it feels like to be absolutely crushed by someone’s words and the emotional and mental health impact that it has so I don’t want to be the reason someone is crying themselves to sleep. Or even worse, wishing they weren’t even here. There is already so much hopelessness in the world today. Don’t be the reason someone questions their own purpose.
This is where that famous saying comes in, “Before you speak, THINK! Is it TRUE? Is it HELPFUL? Is it INSPIRING? Is it NECESSARY? Is it KIND?” I’ll even add another one…Does it IMPROVE the silence? If it isn’t any of these things…Mind. Your. Business.
There are 5 main “love languages”. (I would dare say more than that in my humble opinion if you include music, food and sarcasm but we’ll stick to the traditional five.) One of my love languages is “Acts of Service”. (A love language is how a person receives or feels loved by others. It can also be how we give love as well. Read “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman for more info.) I actually have more than one love language in how I “receive” love but we’ll focus on this one for the purpose of this blog. The “Acts of Service” love language means that I love when someone shows me they care…not by their words but by their ACTIONS. Words are cool and all (as we’ve previously discussed) but when it comes to relationships with others, I prefer someone to show me they care rather than tell me. Because of previous negative experiences, words tend to fall flat with me, especially when there’s no follow through, so to me actions really do speak louder than words.
It could be anything. Big or small. It isn’t so much the “what” as it is the fact that someone is being considerate and thoughtful towards me. The action proves they care. Ironically, this isn’t always how I show love to others. Quite the opposite. It can be difficult for me to do this for others, again, because of previous negative experiences. It’s a huge risk that I’m not always willing to take. It’s actually really rare for me to show it, so when it does happen, it’s a really big deal. It isn’t something I give out lightly to just anyone and once trust is broken, it’s always there in the back of my mind. It’s hard to get past.
Relationships with people I know isn’t necessarily my strong suit. I’ve admitted that. I’m a work in progress in that area for sure. Being vulnerable is scary. What I DO love oddly enough, is being helpful to people I don’t even know. Is that weird? That’s weird right? Perhaps it’s because there’s no emotional ties, no risk etc. Just the idea of making a random person’s day…I love that. Just today I was at the grocery store and a sweet little old lady stopped me in passing. She was trying to get something off the very top shelf and it was obvious she couldn’t reach and didn’t have anyone with her to help out. She asked if I would help her get the item she wanted for her, to which of course I said yes and handed it to her. She was so happy and grateful and had a huge smile on her face. (Even under her mask she was beaming.) She walked away happy and grateful she was able to get help. I walked away happy and grateful that she had asked me to give her the help she needed. I love little things like that. It doesn’t take much to make a person’s day.
I tell this story to prove a point. Making a choice to show up for even a complete stranger is literally something that could change the world. And it isn’t even a new concept. Jesus started the whole idea. In Matthew chapter 6 and in Luke chapter 7 He gives that famous line that gets quoted so often, “Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” He kind of meant that. We’re the one’s that screwed it up. Just turn on the news or scroll through your social media pages. It’s gross.
It seems so simple but when you think about it, if every single person followed this one rule, the world would literally be a better place. It could mean having a conversation with someone that looks lonely. Showing grace to someone who is going through a dark season in their life. Or giving of our time to those less fortunate. To those who feel invisible and unwanted. I think we’ve all felt that at some point in our lives to a certain degree. And I know for myself, it’s in those lowest moments when someones act of kindness literally makes my day. It has helped to pull me out of some pretty rough seasons in my life. In a world that seems to have turned it’s back on everyone and constantly dishes out hopelessness and depression, treating others how we would want to be treated seems like it would be very healing to so many open wounds.
“Watch your thoughts they become words. Watch your words they become actions. Watch your actions they become habits. Watch your habits they become character. Watch your character it becomes your destiny.”
I’m not sure who originally said this (there are a few authors who claim it to be theirs) but it’s pretty amazing none the less. It’s a pretty bold statement and to be honest, it can make a person feel a little uneasy just reading it. Why? Because the entire statement centres around holding ourselves accountable. It’s one thing to hold someone else accountable. It’s quite another to hold ourselves to that same standard. (Preaching to myself here!)
Every area of our life is run by our thoughts first and foremost. Our thoughts create the foundation for what we do within any given day, which is what produces the actions and habits that form our life. Whatever our goals or “dreams” are, it all has to start with a thought. And not just any thought. A trained thought. Being intentional.
For example, when I started going to the gym, it first started with a thought. The realization that I needed to become healthier. Then I had to make up my mind that I was going to get up and actually go to the gym on a regular basis. That was the action. All this time later it has now become a habit. (It takes 30 days to build a habit and 30 days to break a habit.) This habit has now transformed how I feel, how I think, what I eat, and even physically changed my body. It’s who I am now.
The same can be said about our character. Character is different from our personality. Personality is who we are in public. What we allow others to see about us. Our character is who we are when we think no one is looking.
“The trophy is earned in the hours when nobody is watching.”
Our everyday thoughts and habits will determine the course of our life. That includes how we choose to spend our time, what we focus on and even how we treat others. That is who we really are.
During this past year, which did not go as planned whatsoever…for any of us I’m sure, I had to make up my mind. I could sit and focus on what I couldn’t control and drive myself crazy OR I could change my train of thought and put my focus on what I COULD control. How could I put myself even just a little bit closer to my goals? Going to the gym, writing more songs, practicing guitar, writing blogs and maintaining a positive faith filled attitude. Surrendering it all over to God for Him to sort out, which lifts the burden of worrying about it off of me and puts God back in the control seat.
There’s a quote by Martin Luther King Jr that I absolutely love.
“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
In other words, every little step matters. Every choice matters. Every action matters. Even our thoughts, they matter. It all adds up to something bigger.
The good news is that even though our words and actions can cause so much damage, we can also choose our words and actions to have a positive impact on others, and ourselves as well. Even the tiniest word or action can be significant. Taking it even a step further, what we choose NOT to say or do can be a positive thing as well.
I think of it this way, whichever way I choose, it’s going to take energy, focus and time. And seeing as how we only have very little time on this planet, why would I spend, or better yet, waste, any of those things on something that has nothing to do with my purpose and why I’m here?
We can use our words and actions (which begin with our thoughts), no matter how seemingly insignificant at the time to propel ourselves and our destinies forward every single day OR we can choose to remain stagnant. The tiniest choices, practiced on a daily basis can have a large impact on our futures. Which in turn affect others.
Bringing it all back to the beginning of this story, one of the things that I actually love about my story of getting stung is the fact that he was such a tiny little guy but he was still absolutely fearless! I was a million times his size and he still had no qualms about doing what he felt he needed to do. He probably felt like he was “defending” himself or what he had set out to do that day. Who knows. The point is, if such a little thing can disrupt my day the way that yellow jacket did, think about how such “little” things like our words and actions can impact not just our day but someone else’s!
“Little” things can add up and make a significant impact, both on ourselves and others. It’s up to you and me whether that is positive or negative. Forwards or backwards. If we’re going to be “busy”, let it be ON purpose, FOR A purpose.