Long, long time ago, there was a saying that you could throw out there when you wanted to be sarcastic (and usually immature). In fact, some people still unfortunately use it today. And that phrase is…

“Your mom!”

Sound familiar to anyone?

“It’s a two-word phrase, short, and basically harmless,” my high school-self said, “After all, how harmful could two little words really be?”

Little did past-me know that I would regret those thoughts very soon.

It was just a normal day, very much like any other day, and here past-me was, standing with a group of friends. We were all joking around, and as my friend threw a lame joke my way, I responded with the fateful two words, “Your mom!” It slipped out before I could even think, and immediately, everyone froze with horror.

My friend had lost his mom a few years ago to an accident, and as I replayed those two words coming out of my mouth in slow motion, I desperately wished I could take it all back. We were all silent, eyes wide, waiting for my friend’s reaction. To my relief, he began to laugh and just brushed it all off.

A few years later, he would tell me that he still struggled with his mother’s death. That her loss had led to bouts of depression, and that it was never easy to realize that he no longer had a mom in this world anymore. And in that moment, I remembered that incident from long ago and couldn’t help but feel that what I had said that day could’ve had a bigger impact than he let on.

Often times, we think that the things we say in jest or in passing moments won’t make that much of a difference. That two, three, four, five small words won’t have the power to really hurt anybody. But that’s not true.

No matter how good your intentions may be, I’ve learned that it’s best to prefer those around you. If there’s even a chance of the other party getting hurt or offended by your “joke,” why take the risk? We live in an age where sarcasm and sass are widely appreciated and thought to be witty and humorous. But when that humor may come at the cost of hurting someone’s heart, even if they do laugh it off, is it really worth it?

As followers of Jesus, we should be ones who always talk with love. Not a worldly love, but a love that exemplifies and glorifies Jesus. And I’ll be the first to admit that there are still times where I slip up, often spitting out sassy remarks like a reflex. But in those moments when I come face to face with someone’s eyes full of hurt, even if I don’t understand how such a “small” thing could offend them, I realize that the right thing to do is lay down all my pride and genuinely apologize. Because my desire is to love well, just as Jesus loves me.

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