Worrying Out Loud

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Words of complaint and concern have the power to cause anxiety in the life of your friends and family.

Jen burst into the room, tears streaming down her face. “I can’t stand my life!” she exclaimed.

Wondering whether her daughter was suffering from hormone overload or something worse, her mother asked what on earth was wrong.

“You!” the daughter shot back.

Probing further, it became clear to my friend that her teenage daughter was in a state of high anxiety. Pouring out her fears, this young girl told her mother that she was worried about school, anxious about a grandparent in failing health, concerned about the family business, wondering whether there would be enough money for college and whether the economy might collapse. She just couldn’t handle it anymore.

“But, honey,” my friend said, “you don’t have to handle it. Don’t worry about Grandpa. Your dad and I are taking care of him. And our business is doing well. I promise there will be enough money for college. The economy isn’t great, but it’s getting better. What made you so upset about all these things?”

“You!” came the emphatic reply, once again. “You’re always complaining about the business, about Grandpa’s health, and about how terrible the economy is!”

My friend was stunned. She hadn’t realized that her words of complaint and concern had been driving a stake of anxiety into her daughter’s sensitive heart, causing her to worry about issues that no thirteen-year-old should have to deal with.

When it comes to complaints, none of us have a clean slate. But perhaps we can take this story to heart, realizing the power that words have to erode the peace of those we love. Today, let’s ask the Lord to place a guard on our lips, so that whatever comes out of them builds up rather than tears down.  

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