When I was in 6th grade I was a bit of a snit.
I liked what I liked and I didn’t like what I didn’t like.
I’m not so sure this is uncommon for middle schoolers. Part of building independence and developing past ego, ego, and more ego, is to experiment with all kinds of wants, needs, desires, and compassions, trying them on, getting them straightened out, and embracing them as our own. The question we should ask adolescents isn’t what they want to be, but who they want to be?
My mom was pretty wise. She knew I didn’t want to be someone selfish, hateful, and ugly. So standing by her bed one evening complaining about whatever unfairness occurred in my day, she stopped my words, looked straight into my eyes and said,
“Heidi, I want you to say one nice thing…”
Not one nice thing right now, not one nice thing in a few days. I want you to say one nice thing before you say anything else, every time you speak.”
She proceeded to keep me accountable for three whole months –
“Did you say something nice first?
Did you think something nice about that person?
What went well? What was nice in your day?”
Common sense, right?
But not to a twelve-year-old, and not to most of the world before us it would seem.
I’m not saying that one nice thing will change everything in an instant, the way we communicate, the darkness of struggle, the intricacies of relationship, but it does change perspective that’s for sure.
Think of it another way, God disagrees with us all the time, but still talks nicely to us. What if we completely agreed with one another at all times and in all places and spaces of our lives. Sounds like world peace, but it also sounds like very little room or need for grace.
Instead we can partner with one another through words, words that sound different from one another, words that have different messages and different agendas. I super love words, but if we’re ever going to share in genuine conversation, genuine affection, genuine relationship, we’re going to have to disagree occasionally. Because I don’t look like you and you don’t look like me.
And isn’t that a really, really nice thing?
I’m over faking it, bring on the genuine. Let’s be ourselves. Let’s have opinions. Let’s do so nicely.
One nice thing, thought, spoken, shared, before every conversation. I think it may go a long way in loving each other and this great big world a little bit better.
One nice thing.
For more on this topic of Using Genuine Words see episode 14 of the I Love My Shepherd podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or the link below.
If you’re interested on more about Erikson’s Stages of Development, particularly ego-identity v. role confusion, here’s a helpful, simple link: https://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html