I don’t even remember her name. But I remember her lipstick because it was CoverGirl; I asked her, and I wanted my own. Back then, we all saved our small amounts of change for Wet & Wild Nail Polish or tubes of CoverGirl lipstick.
She wore her purple lipstick even when she played the flute. I saw her in band at least a few times a week. We were in middle school together. I had played the flute a few years by then, but she had started a little later. Maybe she had only played one or two.
I was first chair of many. And by many I mean a lot. Everyone wanted to play the flute. Usually, by high school, the flute section is a normal size, matching the clarinets or trumpets. But in elementary school, flute was one of the top picks for up-and-coming fifth graders.
I worked my way to the top fairly easily and didn’t give up that chair without a fight. Occasionally, I would be “challenged,” which meant the person in “second chair” could pick a piece to perform for the band director, and he would position whomever played it best in the first chair of the section. I practiced hours to hold on to that chair through middle and high school, losing it a few times, and gaining it back.
I was proud of my success, but not necessarily humble. The girl with the purple lipstick didn’t play so well. Flute is a hard instrument as a beginner. The mouthpiece has to be positioned just so, or it’s hard to make a clear, pure sound. After a long time of practice, your lips are tired, and so are your arms. No one likes being a beginner.
And for some reason, I felt the need to build myself up, as if I needed to prove myself. One day, as I talked to other girls gathered around me, I was a very proud thirteen or fourteen year old and declared that this girl with the purple lipstick, her name now lost to me forever, “just didn’t know how to play.” The girls were silent because they realized what I didn’t; the girl with the purple lipstick stood right behind me and had heard every word.
I felt horrible. I muttered a quick “sorry” and escaped. Why had I so flippantly talked badly about someone behind her back? I knew better than that. And she was really hurt.
Even as adults, we struggle with our words and their power. We do know better, and we have all been the girl with the purple lipstick, yet we do it because we think no one is listening, and for some reason we feel the need to prove our worth to others and—perhaps even more—to ourselves. But we don’t have to build ourselves up. Because our worth comes from being made in the image of God.
The scriptures abound with advice on controlling our minds and our mouths. From the same mouth comes blessings and curses, and knowing better, we even curse those made in the image of God, just like us (James 3). Instead, as Christians, we are to speak from the abundance of our hearts (Luke 6)! Or with the intent of building up others, not ourselves (Ephesians 4).
Each month, in my Rachel’s Ramblings, I have been highlighting a spiritual discipline. And speaking blessings not curses is just that, a discipline. As you allow Christ to transform who you are, pay attention to the place from which you speak. You are made in God’s image and with each word to others—and even to yourself—you reflect the deep love He has for you in Jesus Christ to those around you. May those words come from an awareness of the abundance He has given us.