Recently our daughter Critter Crazy Girl was so impressed by my bravery. She announced to everyone at dinner that I was her hero. She and her little sister were cleaning out their outdoor playhouse when she came in to tell me she was, “terrified of the wasps that have taken over the playhouse!” She bravely declared that she was “willing to face her fears in order to have a wasp-free playhouse.” The Midnight Gardener built an amazing playhouse for the kids amid the trees in our small orchard a few years back only to have them refuse to use it much, declaring frequently that there were too many spiders, wasps and bugs–so her willingness was a big step forward. I offered to help and she readily accepted. I sprayed, swatted and swept out all the playhouse wasp nests. My daughter was awe struck! (Please don’t tell her that it was really no big deal.)
As adults we generally leave our wasp / bee fears behind because experience teaches us that we are bigger and wiser than these once frightening insects. As adults we know that bees and wasps are our friends, because they pollinate our flowers and help our plants to grow. We also know they must be our friends from a distance. When Critter Crazy Girl was around 7 years-old, she had not learned about “the from a distance” part of being friends with a bee. We discovered this one summer afternoon when she brought a toy insectarium full of bees into our house and declared, “Mom! Look! I have some new friends!” This became a life lesson taught and learned quickly.
I also learned an up-close, personally painful life lesson from a wasp. Here is my “waspy” tale:
The Midnight Gardener and I can verbally spar with one another on occasion. We are not one of those couples who can claim “we have never had an argument or said an unkind word to each other.” Nope! Ahhh, not even close. The good thing is that we don’t argue about the important stuff–in fact our first fight as a married couple was about how to cut carrots for a stir-fry! Anyway, in one of these occasional duels I flew out of the house as angry as a wasp that had just found its nest removed from the eaves of a playhouse. I got on my bike and fiercely pedaled off to meet my oldest daughter after elementary school. I was crying and tears were flying into the wind. As I was choking, crying and coughing, a wasp suddenly flew into my mouth and stung my tongue. I jumped off my bike, threw it to the ground and began wiping my tongue! I burst out crying for a whole new reason. Spit was everywhere, my nose was gushing and suddenly my tongue was numb. It felt worse than when you have your tongue numbed at the dentist. What a hot mess I was! How did a wasp get in my mouth anyway? What a crazy experience!
Reality re-entered my mind, I couldn’t be late to meet the then 8 year-old Clever Girl, so I got back on my bike and rushed off. On the way home, after I had calmed some what, a quiet, clear thought entered my mind. “You need to hold your tongue more often.” I immediately knew that this impression was true. My hot temper can really get my mind and my tongue working at a fiery pace. (Just ask Clever Girl! This week it was fired up again.) I learned such an important lesson from the wise but stingy wasp. I needed to learn self-management skills, to hold my tongue. I am still working every day to bridle this small part of me that can cause such great damage.
The Scriptures are surprisingly full of tongue teachings:
“Teach me, and I will hold my tongue: and cause me to understand wherein I have erred.”
“Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!”
“And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature.”
“If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.”
“For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile.”
Because this tongue holding business continues to be one of my life’s significant battles, I have collected a list of actions that seem to help me grow my capability to be a peacemaker. (I need your ideas too. Please comment on my post and share your ideas and together we will add to this list.)
1. Pray every day for heavenly help.
2. When things seem chaotic in the home, we play quiet music or use soothing sounds to ease the tension.
3. Deep, relaxed breathing (this one can be annoying to others but sometimes it’s just gotta happen).
4. Removing myself early from a heated discussion, taking some time alone, outside or in my bedroom.
5. Wisely timing those difficult conversations. Night time discussions are not good for me, especially after 10:00 p.m.
6. When I am overly upset, hand-written journaling helps me greatly.
7. When I feel like blurting a comment that really is not helpful, I physically bite my tongue!
8. Mindfulness has recently become culturally popular. What is it? A dictionary definition: “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations; used as a therapeutic technique.” I do find the practice of mindfulness to be useful, and I believe it is important that one be in a good place in one’s life before relying on this therapy. When one is in a depressed state, attempting this technique is not recommended.
9. Be fully present. This is one of my daily inner battles. My thoughts are so busy! I now try to fully focus on the person I am with, centering on how they are feeling, what are their needs, and how can I help them and comfort them?
10. Listen for to understand and then clarify whether you understood what the other person is trying to convey.
11. Validate that others may have a different perspective than mine and I need a soft heart to see the way they think and feel.
12. Assume positive intent.
13. I do not always have to be right. What is the point really?
14. Apologize and mean it. Accept apologies and forgive others.
15. Always put people before things.
16. I am trying to have a strict policy of never texting or emailing when trying to solve a conflict. Too many things can be taken out of context or misunderstood.
Remembering the day my tongue was stung has been a great reminder for me in gaining needed communication skills. Yes, the painful numbness eventually went away, but the wisdom gained does not fade. My friends–watch your tongues or you may be WASPED too!!