The Ministry of Lisa Copen

Lisa Copen, Founder of Rest Ministries which serves the chronically ill, shares about mothering, illness, ministry and more.

ARTICLE: Illness Isn’t an Excuse for Not Guarding Our Words

Illness Isn’t an Excuse for Not Guarding Our Word
By Lisa Copen

When illness gets us down both mentally and physically, it can be easy to lash out at those we care about the most. But having a chronic illness doens’t give us a free pass to say whatever is on our mind without watching our words.

I couldn’t think of anything to make for dinner. I stood in front of the freezer until I became cold and then I walked away for a few minutes, hoping that something appetizing and easy to make would magically appear by the time I returned and opened the freezer door again. Finally, I decided on a meal. I overestimated the time the meat needed to defrost and half of it ended up cooked. I chopped it up and threw it in a skillet. Then the phone rang, the doorbell buzzed, and the cat scratched me as I held her to keep her from running out the door while I signed for the UPS package. When I returned, the meal was burned and tears threatened to come spilling out as I scraped dinner down the disposal. It was time to order pizza. I wanted a do-over.

Have you ever wanted a do-over? As I use the computer, I constantly hit “undo.” It’s easy to simply undo the last step that one takes in a document, but not so easy in one’s life. Like in our lives, there are times we have said things that we shouldn’t have said. No matter how hard we try, we can’t take it back—the feelings of a loved one have already been hurt. When we don’t hit our “undo” and at least apologize, the errors in our life stack up and we create a mess. How often have you wished you could simply hit an “undo” button in your life?

Illness has a way of changing the person that one is when one interacts with his or her spouse, the children, the parents and friends. Although it’s easy to believe that we haven’t changed, we have. Our bubbly personality begins to fizz out, or our usual amount of patience wears thin a lot quicker. We scream, we cry, we try to explain that we are in a lot of pain and that we need some “help around here.” And then we grieve… we grieve because we hear what we are saying and it’s not the person that we desire to be. We don’t want our children to grow up fearing our moods. We don’t want our friends to think we are complainers. We don’t want our spouses to stay at work long hours in order to avoid us. Rather than trying to constantly “hit undo” in our lives, however, we must be discerning in our words, even when we are in pain.

Christ gave us the largest “undo button” by forgiving us for our sins and offering us everlasting life. Psalms 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Our mistakes have been deleted, erased, undone and will not show up again. Only Christ has the power to erase completely however. Words sting and are hard to forget.

My sister played golf recently with our cousin, and she asked for a mulligan. A mulligan is the chance to replay your last shot, and beginners often use this opportunity. “Do you want to be a good golfer?” he asked. “Yes,” she said. “Then you don’t get a mulligan. You have to learn to do it right the first time.”

Next time you are tempted to use harsh words out of frustration, think about what kind of person you desire to be. What kind of memories are you trying to make? “I’m sorry,” can be an appropriate gesture, but sometimes it’s better if we just avoid taking that “bad shot” and needing to use a mulligan. Instead, we must concentrate on improving our relationships by using kindness in our words from the beginning.

Lisa Copen is editor of HopeKeepers Magazine, a consumer publication for those with chronic illness, and founder of Rest Ministries, Daily devotionals, a free magazine, dozens of e-groups, books by Lisa, including “Why Can’t I Make People Understand?”

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