With all of the sickness that has been in my household since Christmastime, I’ve been vomited on (and have vomited) more than a couple of times lately. However, I would like to talk about my latest encounter with vomit of a different kind: word vomit.
Yes. Word vomit. It’s as gnarly as it sounds.
Recently, I happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time when someone had a serious case of word vomit that was spewed all over me. It was nasty. I felt icky afterwards. I’m not giving more details for the simple fact that details aren’t important to what needs to be said.
How many times do we voice a harsh, critical, and absolutely unneeded assessment about people/things/situations? How many times are such verbalizations uttered without full knowledge of all aspects of the subject at hand? In other words, how many times to we run our mouths when we don’t know jack?
Furthermore, do we even consider how it makes others feel when we spew word vomit at/on them?
Scripture alert. But don’t worry, I’m not going to preach at you so if you aren’t a Christian, don’t stop reading. There’s some good stuff.
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
(Ephesians 4:29 NLT)
I was listening to the Book of Ephesians last night when I heard this quote and I felt rather convicted. I try to go out of my way to build and encourage people even when I have something negative to say. (I actually don’t believe that Christians have to always be positive. The issue is how a point is communicated and not necessarily the subject matter.) But as I heard this scripture I realized that while I may not be foul or abusive my words aren’t always helpful and/or encouraging.
Which brings me back to word vomit…
Unless you have some weird fetish, or desperately need attention, people don’t generally relish the idea of having the contents of their own stomach, let alone someone else’s, emptied on them.
The same is true for the bowels of consciousness.
Sure, it feels good to vent. It feels good to air grievances. It feels good to get something that’s bugging you off your chest. But what about the folks who are within earshot when you do so?
Have they asked your opinion? Does what you have to say about it actually matter? Is it going to help or will it cause problems?
I’ve been on the receiving end of word vomit more times than I can count, and there’s never been an instance when I’ve felt good that it happened.
There have been plenty of times that I’ve been on the listening end of a friend or loved one expressing their thoughts/fears/opinions/observations where I’ve felt challenged (in a good way). There have been hard truths I’ve had to absorb through the words of others.
Stop spewing on people. Before you feel the need to tell someone (or the world on social media) exactly how you feel about something, ask yourself a few questions:
1) Do I really need to say what’s on my mind right now?
2) If I say what’s on my mind, can I articulate it in a way that will be easily received by the hearer?
3) Am I communicating my raw, unprocessed thoughts and feelings?
4) Is this the right time or venue to be raw with my thoughts and feelings or should I wait until I’ve had time to sort through them?
5) Do I actually need something or am I just letting off steam?
6) Can the person I’m speaking to help me?
7) Is letting off steam the most constructive thing to do right now?
We’re living in a world that is increasingly giving value and encouraging people to express themselves in ways that are self-centered and blind to how such communication affects those on the receiving end. Watch a reality show or two and/or spend time (particularly in the comments section) on various social media platforms if you don’t agree.
Word vomit helps no one. We can do better. Let’s do better.