I was a lector at church this morning and the reading was about Moses, Aaron and Miriam. In this reading, Aaron and Miriam spoke against Moses out of jealously over Moses ability to hear God speak. God was so upset with them that he called a meeting of the three and immediately admonished Aaron and Miriam for their words. Mirium was left as a leper as a punishment.
It struck me that Mirium must have been the one who initiated the negative speech agains Moses, who was a truly holy man. She then led her husband down a sinful path. She may have been frustrated that she and her husband could not speak to God directly or maybe she was jealous because the people listened to Moses. Either way her words had power and they were used to the detriment of another.
How often out of frustration, jealously or in being offended by others, do we say things we should not say? In the era of reality television, anything goes. The more hurtful and disrespectful, the higher the ratings. Has anyone else noticed the trend, people are more likely today to lash out at others in public over perceived offenses such as a driving error or a mistake at a register when checking out. We all have to learn to choose our words wisely and most of us struggle from time to time with what we should and should not say. Often we say things that are disparaging of others because we ourselves are feeling inadequate.
But guess what, our words mean something, they are powerful and can be used for good or for evil. We can lead others to false beliefs, hatred and even misconceptions about someone when we speak against them. We can hurt someone’s reputation. Or we can help others see the good, the positive and the best in others and themselves. We can build up or tear down – it is our choice – a very important one. Freedom of speech carries a large responsibility that we should consider before we utter words we may regret later.
When we lift others up and are joyous in their accomplishments, celebrating their gifts, and striving to fortify them with words of encouragement, they stand taller, have more confidence, feel good about themselves. This type of speech brings out the best in others and can change lives for the better. We have a choice when we speak, we can choose to point out the negative, or we can choose to encourage the positive.
There is one more item of discussion here….Moses, the one who was hurt and spoken of in a negative way, should have been angry at Mirium and Aaron. Instead it was his prayer that healed her. So when we are affected ourselves by the hurtful speech of others we can forgive instead of react. We have the power to stop the negative cascade of events that can occur. We can choose to either react with more hateful speech, then tell our friends and family about the incident so that they can then harbor the negativity or we can forgive, let it go and get on with our day. Just like Moses did.
So I challenge us all, for one day, let’s lift others up and speak only words of gratitude and encouragement. Forgive those who speak against us without harboring resentment and use the power of speech used to create a series of positive interactions that can change the world one conversation at a time.