I'm not who I was.
I volunteer at J’s school fairly regularly. On the second day of school (when the students were pretty much still just practicing routine and protocol), I was out in the hallway pulling workbook pages. As the teacher had her door open, I was able to hear everything that was going on. She had instructed the students to split up into groups of 3 and take turns squeezing the toothpaste out of a small tube. This was of course after discussing what was not to be done with the toothpaste. Or the plates. Or the tooth picks. She had the students offer their suggestions: Don’t eat it, don’t smear it in anyone’s hair, don’t throw it across the room, don’t poke anybody’s eyeballs out… they were all pretty sound suggestions. I still say she is a brave woman.
After the students had squeezed out their last drops of toothpaste that their strength could muster, the teacher then instructed them to take their toothpick and try to put the toothpaste BACK IN the tube. With the teacher’s permission, I snuck in to get a quick shot of that part; it was an entertaining endeavor to witness.
Believe it or not, this was not a science experiment, but an illustration. And I think it successfully got the point across.
You see, our words are like the toothpaste. Once they are out, they are really difficult to get back in. In a nutshell, if you say hurtful words, you may be able to apologize and get some of it back in, but there will inevitably be some that have spread beyond your control and you just can’t get them ALL back. Once it’s out, it’s out. So think carefully about your words before you speak them.
(I also want to interject that I SO appreciated that the teacher made a point to emphasize that even if it’s true, it can still be gossip if it is going to hurt someone’s reputation rather than build them up. It’s a pet peeve of mine when people make the excuse, “If it’s true, it’s not gossip”.)
The teacher followed up the toothpaste exercise by reading Mr. Peabody’s Apples, which you can listen to below.
I wish I would have blogged about this sooner so I could have remembered more of the kids’ insight on what the story could teach us. It was pretty impressive.
Beyond walking quietly down the hallway or staying in one’s seat, I think that this excercise was probably the most important beginning-of-the-year lesson of all. I know many adults (myself included) who could stand to revisit it regularly.
” A contrary man spreads conflict,
and a gossip separates close friends” -Proverbs 16:28 (HCSB)
“A gossip goes around revealing a secret,
but a trustworthy person keeps a confidence.” -Proverbs 11:13 (HCSB)
“Don’t bad-mouth each other, friends. It’s God’s Word, his Message, his Royal Rule, that takes a beating in that kind of talk. You’re supposed to be honoring the Message, not writing graffiti all over it. God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others?” -James 4:11-12 (The Message)
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” -Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)
“to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” -Titus 3:2 (ESV)
“A gentle answer turns away anger,
but a harsh word stirs up wrath.” -Proverbs 13:1 (HCSB)
“Treat others just as you want to be treated.” -Luke 16:31 (CEV)
“A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.” -James 3:5-6 (The Message)
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” -Phillipians 4:8 (The Message)