Do You Mean It?

“What does ‘Trick or treat’ mean?” My five-year old is at the stage of asking the meaning behind cliches that most of us rattle off mindlessly.

“Well, it used to be that on Halloween people were saying, ‘Give me a treat or I’ll play a trick on you.’ It doesn’t really mean that anymore and people don’t really play tricks if someone doesn’t give them candy.”

A few days later he asked again, but he finished the story for me, “But people don’t really mean it, right?”

It made me realize how many times we say things without thinking about the real meaning behind them.

“How are you doing?” (We don’t always really want to know.)
“I’m fine.” (Even when we’re stressed/worried/sad, etc.)
“Have a nice day.” (Do we really care whether they do or not?)

Ever since the boys were born I’ve tried to be more mindful of the things I say so I’m not misleading them.
Some of the things we rattle off as flippant space fillers are actually the most important to mean:

“Call me if you need anything.”
“I’ll pray for you.”

These statements have become platitudes to a degree that they have no more significance than telling someone, “Have a nice day.”

Scripture is clear that we are to say what we mean, and mean what we say–I believe this extends to a promise to pray:

“Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’ But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil. Matthew 5:33, 37

We offer our words with the best intentions, but our day runs on and we’re distracted and we overlook our obligation. But by changing our words around just a little, we can make sure we’re keeping our commitments.

Have you ever really called someone who told you, “Call me if there’s anything I can do.”?

Even if you’re perfectly sincere when you offer, you might actually be able to help if you say, “Can I help by…..?” and then fill in the blank. When we offer something we can do and will follow through with, it’s easier for our friend to accept our offer. And if it isn’t something that will help just now, it at least communicates we’re willing to put something behind our words.

And then there’s our Christian conversation closer, “I’ll pray for you.” I know I’m guilty of putting the words out there but never following through with actually bringing my friend and her needs before God.

A better option is, “Can I pray for you?” Right here, right now, take the time to cover the situation in prayer. While I know God knows my heart and thoughts and intentions, making the suggestion that I’ll pray isn’t really the same as consciously naming the friend and the concern in a heartfelt way.

I know praying with someone can be awkward (perhaps for them most of all), so at the very least, don’t start your car (or another conversation) until you’ve taken the time to take the concern to God.

In some ways, these are the smallest of statements, but their impact can be enormous.

Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God…When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it.” Ecclesiastes 5:2a, 4

What do you say without thinking that you should pay more attention to?

6 Responses to Do You Mean It?
  1. Renee Kovach
    October 20, 2011 | 6:24 pm

    Great article, Mary. I’ve found a way to fulfill that promise. There’s a website called Light A Candle which I like to visit each night. It gives me the opportunity to look back on my day and light a candle for each person who needs or asked for prayers that day. I’m sure I missed some, but this has helped me keep many more promises than I used to!

  2. Elizabeth M Thompson
    October 20, 2011 | 7:04 pm

    Thanks for the reminder, Mary! I often pray with people right on the spot because I have a short attention span and will forget to pray for them later. One thing that helps me to remember to pray for someone: I write their name(s) and needs on a 3×5 card and add it to my stack of prayer requests. Then I pray through those cards during my morning prayer time.

  3. Rosalind
    October 20, 2011 | 11:01 pm

    Praying is so powerful and it often gets underestimated. I have a planner specifically for prayer, I think that helps me to remember, I write a person or something I would like to pray about on that day.

    I also try to pray for a person right then and there and I think it’s the most efficient method. Thank you for the reminder!

    I also agree with the cards that helps me remember too, that is a great tip thank you Elizabeth!

  4. Barbie
    October 21, 2011 | 12:03 pm

    This is such a great reminder. I am so guilty of opening my mouth and speaking before I think things through. And even though my heart is right, the words just don’t always come out right. I want to always speak His words with truth and love.

  5. […] Faith, Mary from Refresh Moments discusses the things we say that we don’t really mean…Do You Mean It?“What does ‘Trick or treat’ mean?” My five-year old is at the stage of asking the meaning […]

  6. Christine B
    October 30, 2011 | 8:09 pm

    Wonderful article. Made me realize a lot. Thank you!