Wednesday, October 23, 2013

"Loose Lips Sink Ships"

During World War II, posters reminded people, "Loose lips sink ships." Even in peace time, loose lips can cause deep hurt. I learned that the hard way.

One summer during my high school years, my family was returning home from a long car trip over the Haines Cutoff portion of the Alaska Highway. In those days, that three-hundred-mile stretch of road in Canada was unpaved--bumpy, dusty, and full of hairpin curves. Needless to say, it was bone-jarring for us all.

We decided to stop in Valdez to visit friends who operated the children's home there before continuing on to our home in Seward. When I didn't get enough rest, I often contracted tonsillitis. By the time we arrived in Valdez, I had a whopper of a sore throat and fever and was sent directly to bed.

After traveling so long, we needed clean clothes. The children's home allowed my mother to use their washer and dryer. Before long, my freshly laundered clothes were delivered to my room. To my surprise, they were not only folded, but my blouses had been ironed and hung on hangers.

One of my shirts had long, wide sleeves that needed to be rolled up. Being a perfectionist, I was very fussy about how that was done, and I noticed right away that they had not been ironed the way I liked. Thinking my foster sister, with whom I shared the chore of ironing, had ironed my blouse, I complained, "You didn't do the sleeves right."

A teen girl who lived in the home had helped to carry the clothes upstairs. As those words of complaint left my mouth, the smile on her face fell away. I knew instantly that she had ironed my shirt, and I had just destroyed her pleasure in doing something nice for me.

Nothing I could say would recall those thoughtless words, though I wanted so badly to do so. Nearly fifty years have passed, and I still remember that incident and how my words hurt that girl. That day I learned the hard way that words once spoken can never be unsaid.

The Apostle Paul advises us in Ephesians to speak only words that build up the other person. That day, I learned to think before I speak so as not to needlessly hurt someone. I'm sure I haven't done it perfectly over the years, but I am more aware of what I say. Daily, my prayer is "May the words of my pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer" (Psalm 19:14, NLT).

Have you ever said something you wished immediately that you could take back?

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