Today is my son’s third birthday, so I decided to write him a letter that I figured you may also benefit from, especially in times like these where the power and responsibility to communicate the right thing well is so critical. I hope you find it helpful.
Brave, if you’re reading this when you’re older, I first want you to know how much of a privilege it is for me to be your father. You have such a sweet spirit, and it’s clear that you were made to be a warm gift to a world that’s growing colder and colder.
My son, your voice matters, perhaps now more than ever. And while the words of so many quickly evaporate and are forever forgotten, I don’t see that same fate for yours. I think you were meant to say things that will stand the test of time.
As I prayed for some wisdom to leave you on how to achieve this, I’ve come up with a short list of things to keep in mind as you wield your voice to redeem the world around you.
Here it is:
1. There’s power of life and death in every single thing you say.
My son, the world is continually blurring the lines between right and wrong, good and evil. The culture says that the contrast between right and wrong is not as clear as the contrast between black and white. Everything is a shade of grey.
Listen to me closely. This could be the single most damaging lie that anybody will ever entertain. It’s mistruths like this that allow horrendous injustices to happen to the most defenseless people and for the perpetrators to get away with it.
Good and evil are not relative. They are eternal truths that have never changed and never will change.
The things you say are either adding gasoline to the fire that burns down the world around you, or they are extinguishing that fire and building up something beautiful out of the ash. There is no middle ground.
Choose what you say wisely.
2. Be slow to speak, quick to listen, and slow to get angry.
Some of my greatest regrets have come in the form of speaking too quickly when I was offended. When you find yourself offended, your initial reaction is going to be to shoot a comment back to make your counterpart feel how they made you feel.
This is counterproductive.
When you feel this urge rise up in you, slow down. Don’t make the goal to win the dispute.
Make the goal to understand.
Listen to what your counterpart is saying. Honor them, even if they don’t honor you in return. And if your efforts to honor their right to speak aren’t reciprociated, walk away.
But don’t let your anger bully you into saying something you’ll regret later.
3. The quiet ones seems wise.
This isn’t about staying silent when you have something important to say.
But there’s a big difference between having something to say and always having to say something.
Control your tongue. You don’t need to always voice your opinion on every matter.
There’s authority in being the one at the table that chooses their time to speak so carefully that when they finally do, all attention in the room hangs on their every word.
Let every thing you say be gold. Make them lean in.
4. Speak up, unless you want the fool to think he’s right.
Sometimes, walking away from a foolish dispute is the wisest thing to do, particularly if you foresee your time being wasted and your reputation being compromised.
But other times, you need to expose their lies.
Never do it in malice, but for their good and for the benefit of those around them.
Lies hurt people. Truth sets them free.
5. Saying the right thing and saying it the right way are both important.
Your tone matters. Your intent matters.
You can be “right” and not be righteous.
Make sure your speech is always seasoned with empathy for other people. Otherwise, you’re only adding to the problems around you, no matter how right you think you are.
6. Be ready to speak for those that can’t speak for themselves.
The world idolizes personal influence, but remember that your influence is never for you.
It’s for others.
This may require you to say things that compromise your influence with other more powerful people in order to stand for the marginalized.
But my take is that those “important” people weren’t really worth having in your corner in the first place.
Let them fall away. Keep standing up for the underdog. It’s better to have a legacy of charity than notoriety.
7. Decide what beliefs you’re willing to die for. Then, speak them.
These beliefs may take some time to develop, and they may drastically take shape over time.
But these beliefs are necessary. Those that don’t have them end up living meaningless lives.
Here’s the trick to getting this list right, though…
Keep it short.
Too many people are willing to die on the stupidest hills.
And when they finally have something really worth dying for, few can take them seriously.
Hold an open hand with all of your beliefs. Be open to be challenged.
But at some point, through enough discussion, observation, and prayer, you’ll see which beliefs really stand the test of time.
And when you do, wrap your fingers tightly around them.
8. Make sure your life lines up with your words.
Communicating your values is critical, but communication is not just what you say.
It’s how you live.
Remember: everything communicates something.
Everything you say, and don’t say.
Everything you do, and don’t do.
Everything you wear, and don’t wear.
Everything you laugh at, and don’t laugh at.
Everything you cry over, and don’t cry over.
So, above all else, make sure the integrity of your message stays in tact by aligning your life fully to it.
You won’t get it right 100% of the time. Be patient with it, and be humble as you discover your shortcomings.
But when you see the gaps between what you say and what you do, close them.
Because that’s what gets what you say etched in stoned.
Happy birthday, Brave. I love you,
Dad Written by Kap Chatfield, July 23, 2020