We all know the childhood saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Throughout our lives, we are encouraged to view other people’s opinions as if they really don’t matter. But the truth is, as much as we don’t want to admit it, there is great power in words.
“The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4, NIV)
The reality is that, as parents, as homeschoolers, . . . as humans, our spirits are lifted by compliments. On the other hand, we can also be brought down by others who disagree with us, criticize us, look down upon us, or dislike us. And we are almost guaranteed to receive some unsolicited advice.
Since God created each of us in his own image, we should value one another. This includes valuing one another’s opinions. Opinions can help us think more deeply about a subject or gain a new perspective that we didn’t have before. The opinions that people share with us can even alert us to proceed with caution. On the other hand, opinions can also be misplaced or misconstrued due to the opinion giver’s personal experiences, thoughts, or emotions. Therefore, we must also be careful not to view that person’s opinion as perfect or better to the extent that we are unable to see the potential flaws within.
Last year, I took my son to his doctor for his annual checkup. I expressed concern over my son’s struggle with spelling. Before the doctor and I discussed any solutions, however, I thought I’d better ask about having my son’s eyesight checked. The doctor immediately gave me a speech about how public schools are better equipped with experts and funds to help my child and told me that this is one of the troubles he has with homeschooling.
Is there a homeschool mom who wouldn’t feel affected by that statement?
At first, I felt offended. As I thought more about it, however, I realized that his ten minutes of contact with us did not make him all-knowing of my thought process, our family dynamics, and our complexities in life. Then I realized I didn’t know any of this about him, either. Furthermore, I didn’t know who he had contact with prior to our appointment and was unaware of any outside governing pressures that his office faced.
I thought about how a wise person will be careful with his words, not only considering his own knowledge, but also the hearts and feelings of others. This thought humbled me and reminded me that I am not free from sin of the tongue. Any one of us can express opinions about things of which we have little knowledge.
“We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.” (James 3:2, NIV)
Therefore, I chose to set aside my feelings of offense and carefully address my son’s doctor with kindness, thoughtfulness, compassion, and grace. Soon, he seemed more compassionate toward my situation. He gave my son an eye exam and determined that my son’s eyesight was just fine. Then he offered ideas on how I could help my son with his spelling.
“The fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” (Proverbs 29:25 NIV)
Rather than letting an opinion pierce your heart, cast aside your fear and make it your ultimate goal to trust God and please Him above all. Next time you are met with negativity, consider your audience and extend them the same grace God gives you.
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