“You really blew it!”

“Are you one card shy of a full deck?”

“You’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny.”

“Here’s your hat! What’s your hurry?”

Ever been on the receiving end of statements like these or others not appropriate to repeat here? Not much fun, are they? Such verbal blows have the potential to leave indelible marks on our self-image.

At the same time, we’re all likely guilty of directing caustic, disparaging remarks at others, often targeting those closest to us and we love most. Or, we may vent personal frustrations by lashing out at whoever has the misfortune to be in proximity at the time.

In a message at my congregation B.C. (Before Coronavirus), the speaker referred to a national survey in which people were randomly asked what three phrases they most wanted to hear.

The number one response, you might guess — “I love you.”

But the second and third choices one might not expect — “You are forgiven” and “Supper’s ready.”

In reflecting on these answers, it strikes me that all three phrases offer words of comfort, security and acceptance to recipients, solid values that we humans need throughout our lifetimes.

“I love you” means even more if you haven’t heard it for a while. I confess to not saying it often enough to my spouse, our daughters, grandchildren, my siblings and extended family members. Without hearing such sentiments, it’s not long before we start wondering if indeed we are persons of self-worth and even start sending out “here I am, notice me” signals.

I Corinthians 13 ends with these words: “Now abide these three — faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.” “All you need is love,” responded the Beatles, but wait, there’s more.

Love is the force that drives the powerful act of forgiveness. Forgiving someone else for wrongdoing offers relief and release to both parties. But starting down the path toward reconciliation is often so hard to do.

How often are we to offer forgiveness to another? “Seventy times seven,” our Lord said, implying that we can’t overdo the action itself. Regardless of the depth of the wound caused by the hurtful deed, potential healing is possible by applying the balm of forgiveness.

Genuine forgiveness means that whatever the transgression, it’s now in the past, not to be dredged up and dwelled upon again. Stated another way: when you bury the hatchet, don’t mark the spot.

How much of the pain, suffering and injustice in our world could move toward resolution if more persons were willing to declare, “You are forgiven”?

I love the way the Apostle Paul gently but forcefully calls us to this urgent task: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Col. 3:12-14), NIV

Ah, savory aromas wafting our way from the kitchen heighten the anticipation, especially if considerable time has elapsed since the last square meal. Then, the magical words “Supper’s ready,” become almost as delectable as the sustenance being served. We hear the words and scramble to the table — unless, perhaps, the menu includes sushi or okra. Quality conversation and a heightened sense of community are nourished around the dinner table, and there’s no TV on in the background.

We all need to receive declarations that help to validate us, that help prod us to look forward rather than back, that sharpen our vision and offer a trace of grace rather than globs of guilt.

Here’s some additional phrases that help keep my motor humming along:

“Thank you for what you did.”

“Nice job.”

“Fifties music is fabulous.”

“C’mon, you can’t be that old.”

“There’s no charge.”

“Lunch is on me, Dad.”

“We’d like to reprint that article.”

‘Have you lost some weight?”

“Today’s forecast: sunny, high of 80 degrees, low humidity.”

“It wasn’t the same without you there.”

“God bless you and yours.”

“And in conclusion … “

Disparaging words, pessimistic pronouncements and putdowns are easy to dish out, but with just a little effort, encouraging phrases, compliments and positivity injected into our daily discourse can make a world of difference in our own attitudes and others’ outlook.

Whatever your phrases that pay huge dividends in the bank of human kindness, say them loudly, proudly, and often.

You’re welcome!

Jim Bishop lives in Harrisonburg. He welcomes your comments at jimanna.bishop@gmail.com.

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