From A Charles Dickens Devotional
“Go you below, my love,” said Mr. Murdstone. “David and I will come down, together. . . . David,” he said, making his lips thin, by pressing them together, “if I have an obstinate horse or dog to deal with, what do you think I do?”
“I don’t know.”
“I beat him.” . . .
I felt, in my silence, that my breath was shorter now. . . .
“What is that upon your face?”
“Dirt,” I said.
He knew it was the mark of tears as well as I. But if he had asked the question twenty times, each time with twenty blows, I believe my baby heart would have burst before I would have told him so....
God help me, I might have been improved for my whole life, I might have been made another creature perhaps, for life, by a kind word at that season. A word of encouragement and explanation, of pity for my childish ignorance, of welcome home, of reassurance to me that it was home, might have made me dutiful to him in my heart henceforth, instead of in my hypocritical outside, and might have made me respect instead of hate him. I thought my mother was sorry to see me standing in the room so scared and strange, and that, presently, when I stole to a chair, she followed me with her eyes more sorrowfully still—missing, perhaps, some freedom in my childish tread—but the word was not spoken, and the time for it was gone.
—From David Copperfield
There are many painful scenes in the works of Charles Dickens. His words sometimes show readers what happens behind closed doors and in secret. This is one of those scenes. David Copperfield’s stepfather, Mr. Murdstone, was a vicious man who enjoyed breaking the spirits of his wife and stepson. But, as Dickens so often does, he reveals through his characters a lesson about life. As David reflects on his childhood, he understands that kind words from his stepfather might have made David a different sort of man.
In Ephesians 4:15 the apostle Paul taught that speaking with love reflects the character of Christ: “We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ” (NLT). Paul went on to say, in verse 29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” (NIV). And in 1 Peter 3:10 we read: “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil” (NIV).
Sometimes, out of weariness or frustration, we speak unkind words or let an opportunity pass when a gentle comment might have conveyed understanding and love. This happens to all of us; it comes with being human. Our words carry both power and potential. See if yours can lift someone up today.
The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.–Proverbs 8:13
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