This morning, one of my children started the day by accidentally spilling their entire bowl of cereal and milk all over the kitchen floor.
And it wasn’t just a neat little spill (is there such a thing?). No, cereal and milk were spattered all over the place.
It was not the best prelude to a Monday morning and I wanted to get frustrated over it. I quickly caught myself, though, when I looked into the eyes of this child and realized that the last thing they needed from me was shame. Instead, they needed grace.
I had the opportunity to either speak words that would hurt my child, or bless my child. Instead of venting, I stopped, took a deep breath, smiled, and said, “Here. Let me get you a new bowl of cereal. And let me wipe you up. Don’t worry about the spilled cereal. I’ll clean it up.”
You know what? I felt so much calmer just saying those words. My child immediately smiled and all was well. And it only took a few minutes to clean up anyway.
But lest you think I’m some rockstar mom, let me tell you that I totally failed in this regard just yesterday — and it was over something much smaller than milk and cereal splashed all over my kitchen. I got upset. I yelled. And I said hurtful words.
Words that wounded. Words that penetrated. Words that shamed.
For the rest of the day, some of my family members carried heavy hearts and discouragement as a result of my words. Even though I asked forgiveness, the damage couldn’t be undone.
As was so evident to me yesterday, our words have lasting impact — either for good or for harm. In 25 years, the spilled cereal and milk and the inconsequential things that happened yesterday will long be forgotten, but my words can never be taken back.
My new mantra: “Grace, not shame.” Will you join me?