I watched a lot of hockey this past weekend at my daughter's tournament. In one game, the other team had little stop signs on the backs of their jerseys, just above where their name should go. That stop sign is there for a reason. It's a visual reminder to the other kids on the ice that checking (hitting the other player with a hip or shoulder) isn't allowed at this age.
As I watched the kids skate, it occurred to me that there are days when I need a stop sign, a visual reminder to stop before I do something rash. Wouldn't it be great if someone held up a stop sign before we opened our mouths and said something hurtful or before we lost our patience?
That stop sign on the backs of those jerseys gives the kids just a split second reminder to stop before they end up in the penalty box, or worse, end up hurting someone else. Our words and our actions have the same potential to cause harm as a body check does in 9-year-old hockey.
Just last night, my girls were sniping at each other about something trivial. Both said things they didn't mean and both ended up with hurt feelings before they went to bed. If they had simply taken a moment before opening their mouths, they might have found a better way to address the issue without creating hurt feelings.
God tells us we should consider the feelings of others before we open our mouths. He tells us we should build one another up, not tear each other down. Our words and our actions are weapons that can slice through another's soul as surely as a hot knife slices through butter. In Psalm 64:3, David is talking about his enemies when he says: "They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim cruel words like deadly arrows." Too often our words and actions resemble those of David's enemies. We want our words and actions to build others up -- not tear them down.
Today, I'll be posting a stop sign in my kitchen with this simple acrostic:
S -- Stop for a minute
T -- Think about your words or actions
O -- Opt not to hurt someone else
P -- Pray about the right thing to do or say
That stop sign (you can get your printable here) will be a visual reminder to me and my family that we need to stop and think before we body check someone else with our words or our actions. I'm also making smaller stop signs for my girls to stick in their pockets as an everyday reminder to stop and think before they cause hurts that they can't repair.
We don't want our words and actions to cause harm. We want them to be the equivalent of a goal, not a body check. Sometimes, all it takes is a simple visual reminder to stop, then speak or act, for that to happen.