It’s the little stings

Preserve me from minding little stings or giving them

One of the most destructive people I’ve ever known never raised her voice. A backhanded compliment offered here, a snide remark whispered there, a sarcastic line spoken with a smile: she made it her business to know everyone’s vulnerable spots and she spent her workdays poking small holes in them with verbal needles. The damage was barely noticeable at first, but it added up. A workplace cheerful in her absence became tense and sour in her presence. When she left for another job, everyone started to breathe easier.

While few people had her talent for destruction by little stings, I think most of us have returned them when we’ve been on the receiving end. But if we can overlook such little stings, if we can remember that minor insults are only harmful if we take them seriously, we can refrain from returning the verbal (dis) favor.

The thing about little stings: they come at a cost. To sting another effectively, we must put ourselves in the others’  shoes: how else would we know what will damage them? Every sting we give, we try out on ourselves first. Such damage adds up, even if we never receive a retaliating sting.

Lord, give me strength to avoid the whole damaging cycle altogether. Amen.

[For more on this series, and for the full prayer, click For Today: Phillips Brooks Prayer.]

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