Summary: Childhood and how the words and actions of those around us influence our character, confidence, self-esteem and faith.


An Exhortation (Sermon) by Ady Miles


There is a very well-known poem written by the late Dorothy Louise Law-Nolte in 1957. She died in 2005, aged just 48, the same age that I am as I write this, but her words remain true... I hope she won't mind me changing it a little!

If children live with criticism, they learn to criticise others.

If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.

If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.

If children live with too much pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.

If children live with ridicule, they learn to be too shy.

If children live with jealousy, they learn to be envious.

If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.

If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.

If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.

If children live with praise, they learn appreciation and how to praise other people's achievements.

If children live with acceptance, they learn to love and accept others.

If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.

If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to achieve goals and recognise the accomplishments of others.

If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.

If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.

If children live with fairness, they learn justice.

If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn to respect others.

If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and trust in those around them.

If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

Were you negatively affected by a parent, guardian or another family member whilst we were growing up?

Were you negatively affected by friends and peers whilst we were growing up?

We read in Proverbs chapter 22 verse 6...

“Train up a child in the way he should go,

And when he is old he will not depart from it.”

A more accurate translation of the Hebrew here is very helpful...

“Steer and keep your children on the right path

[whilst they are still young,]

so that, when they grow older, they will not leave it.”

It is interesting that where the most love is, there is often the most hurt. And, where they most pain or hate is, love will stand-out and shine, just like the moon in the night sky, or a bright torch in a dark cave.

It has been said in recent times, “Too much love will kill you.” Of course, we are not talking about that Agape Love of God, which is perfect. We are talking about when parents in particular say things that they think are for our best, or they just don't think of the effect their words will have on their children. Words that actually hurt and upset us or undermine our self-confidence and self-esteem. Of course, as children growing up, we rarely challenge these statements, our of respect for our parents, but also because they are our main teachers and, at least until we reach our teenage years, we trust their judgement, almost without question. We usually just soak up their comments and, when we are older, we subconsciously use them as reasons why we fail, why we are not good enough or why we should not even bother trying.

The saying that, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” is a big lie we have all been sold when we are young. Words CAN hurt and they often DO hurt. Words can actually cause far deeper and more lasting damage than any superficial physical wounds. They can affect our self-confidence and, more importantly, they can affect our faith.

As an adult, perhaps there is some truth in the saying, as we can do our very best to refuse to let the negative words and unfair criticism of others affect us. However, even as an adult, no one is immune to getting dragged down by negative words or unfair criticism. If this is true of an adult, how much more so is it of a child or a teenager? When we are a child or teenager, perhaps particularly a teenager, we are often very self-conscious and over-aware of what others think of us.

Every single thing done and said to us or we hear about ourselves affects us. Yes, if we are strong, we can choose to not let it affect us that much, but the fact remains, it does still affect us. We are all products of our upbringing and the family environment we were surrounded by. What yourselves and I experienced as children and teenagers has moulded us into the people we are today. Those fortunate enough to live and learn with parents, guardians and teachers who understood the dangers of negative words and over-criticism are almost certainly those of us who are more confident and less self-conscious. They – hopefully you - are unlikely to have significant issues with self-esteem or self-confidence.

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