Hope Robertson

Fashion - Style - Books - Interior Design

Saturday

22

November 2014

Hope, She Wrote: How to Create Traditions and Make Memories

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Christmas season comes and goes so quickly each year that it can be hard to embrace the spirit of the season. In my November 19th column for The Minto Express, I share five ways to prepare your heart for the holidays.

Every year about this time, I find myself getting sentimental and feeling somewhat melancholic for days of yore. Maybe it’s all the Christmas decorations going up, or the first snowflakes falling, or the traditions that surface so faithfully year after year. Whatever the reason, these are times when I find myself reminiscing and wanting to make memories.

It seems these days that we’re so caught up in the commercialization of the Christmas season that we’ve lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas. In fact, it’s no longer politically correct to even say “Merry Christmas”. What is that?! Big box stores haul out the holiday goods right after Hallowe’en and somewhere between November 1st and December 25th society seems to miss the whole point of the season. Anyone else miss the days when we valued tradition, remembered our foundations, and celebrated our roots? Thought so.

While Christmas day may still be more than one month away, now is a great time to start preparing our hearts for this memorable time of year. Christmas is a time where we celebrate the greatest gift ever, and with that in mind, here are some suggestions for getting in the giving spirit (and maybe creating some new traditions along the way!):

  1. Support a local community cause. This doesn’t have to mean giving money; it could mean serving in a community kitchen to those less fortunate, donating non-perishable food items to your local food bank, or taking an hour or two to spend some time with a house-bound friend or aging relative.
  2. Start a gratitude list. In 2013, a friend of mine took time each day to write down one positive thing that happened in her life every day for most of the year. Then, near the end of year, she sat down and reviewed all of the awesomeness in her positivity jar. Whether you keep track with notes in a jar or a journal, take inventory of the positive things in your life.
  3. Be a thoughtful giver. It’s not about how much money you spend or who gives the coolest gift. Get creative in your gift giving; share your talents, and think outside the box.
  4. Share traditions with loved ones. My brother and sister-in-law do this every year, inviting family to help them trim the tree. Decorating for the holidays becomes less of a “to-do task” and more of an opportunity to create memories. Whether you’re setting up a tree or singing carols, or even baking cookies, spend some time with those you love.
  5. Remember the real reason for the season. Whatever your ‘religious’ beliefs or practice (or maybe lack thereof) throughout the year, the fact is, Christmas is a time to celebrate the greatest gift ever. True story.

“Today’s innovation is tomorrow’s tradition.” [Lidia Bastianich] Try something today to help create meaningful memories and traditions for yourself, your family, and your friends!

Robertson, Hope. “Tradition.” Minto Express 19 November 2014: 9. Print.
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Wednesday

8

October 2014

Hope, She Wrote: When It Comes to Comparison

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Comparison is not always a bad thing, but majority of the time, it’s just like Theodore Roosevelt wisely said: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” The sword of comparison is double-edged: Comparison can cause pride in our own lives, and on the flip-side, it can rob us of our contentment.

I’m not sure why it’s a big deal, but as several of my friends and I approach that momentous 30th birthday milestone, we’ve become very aware of time, accomplishments, and expectations in each of our lives. Perhaps it’s the fact that we’re no longer in our early twenties – we might feel like we are, but trust me, spend some time with those kids and it becomes glaringly obvious that we’re waaay past that stage of life –and we’re also not old and experienced enough to be without dreams and goals that we still want to achieve.

Reflection on one’s life has the tendency to tempt us to compare. It’s like there are certain expectations from society that when you turn thirty you’re supposed to have accomplished certain things in life – buying a house, getting married, having children, being established in your career path of choice, traveling the world – and if you aren’t doing these things, you’re not “normal” or “successful”. I beg to differ. Each of us was created unique, and we’re each here on Earth for a certain purpose. The timing for your life plan is different than mine, and we shouldn’t get caught up in comparison. Comparison is a bad habit that has several shortcomings.

Here are helpful things to remember when it comes to comparison:

  1. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Teddy Roosevelt was right about that. Comparison actually causes resentment and jealousy, it can even cause pride – all traits that we should avoid. Comparison puts the focus on circumstances over which you have no control, and steals energy that you could be putting into being your best self.
  2. When you find yourself tempted to compare, practice gratitude. Being thankful and practicing an attitude of gratitude has a way of bringing to light the blessings that we already have. It also promotes contentment. Practicing gratitude also has this awesome way of helping us demonstrate other fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
  3. Instead of competing with others, get inspired. When we compare ourselves to others, there’s often the temptation to compete – “keeping up with the Joneses”, if you will. Instead of comparing and competing, get inspired. Learning from the life experiences of others can be very beneficial, and if you see positive traits in another person that you genuinely admire, let that prompt real positive change in your own life.

Don’t let the world define “normal” or “successful” for you – you are the only you there will ever be. You are a completely unique creation. That’s a pretty big deal. As Judy Garland said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” Rather than wasting time on comparisons, learn the mindset of being content.

Robertson, Hope. “The Dangers of Comparison.” Minto Express 08 October 2014: 5. Print.
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Friday

26

September 2014

Hope, She Wrote – Being Authentic: Aligning Your Walk With Your Talk

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My name is Hope, so it should come as no surprise that by nature I’m a relatively positive person. My cup is almost always overflowing, however there are definitely days when I would definitely rather hide out and hibernate than exude encouragement and expectation like my namesake.

Case in point? It’s funny, because one of my recent columns was about finding inspiration, and there were a few days in the past week or two where I was lacking in that department. One of my coworkers and I were discussing this very thing, and she made the comment, “go back and read your column!” That (coupled with some other experiences from the past couple of weeks) really got me thinking about the difference between talking the talk and walking the talk.

I always find it so frustrating when people say one thing, but they do another, or when someone professes certain beliefs, but their lifestyle completely contradicts their claims. Ironically, though, (talk about the mote and the beam) I’m just as guilty of this in my own life. It’s pretty easy for me to write down encouraging words, but sometimes taking my own advice can be a different story all together.

We might have the very best of intentions, but people looking at our lives don’t see our intentions – they see our actions. That’s why authenticity is so important. Sure, authenticity starts with intention, but the follow-through is what makes it real – when you put your genuine self into action – and this can be a scary thing, because let’s be honest, authenticity makes us vulnerable.

So how can we become more authentic? Well, as someone who’s trying, let me share – it’s a major understatement to say that being authentic can be challenging. Here are a few ways I’m learning to live a more authentic life:

  1. Know your values and align your actions. My beliefs might be very different from yours, however we all believe in something, and I base my value system off my beliefs. Sure, that means sometimes I make decisions that are “dorky” or perhaps even “uncool”, but I’d way rather be authentic than try to fit in by betraying my beliefs and being untrue to who I am. Why do you believe what you believe, and on what foundation are your ideals truly based?
  2. Surround yourself with the right people. This can be a difficult one, but it’s key! It’s way easier for others to drag you down than it is for you to lift them up. And while we can all be used to have an impact in the lives of those around us, ultimately it’s important to surround yourself with people who want the best for you, and who will help you and encourage you to live a fulfilled life.
  3. Recognize when you’re being inauthentic – also known as insincere, fake, unreal. What situations cause your walk to stray from your talk? Recognize when you find yourself being insincere, and think about why you’re acting and not being authentic. Unfortunately, peer pressure has power, people. [Sidebar: When you’re facing peer-pressure, just remember, if your friends are truly your friends, they won’t condemn you or judge you for making choices that might be different from theirs – they’ll respect you for standing up for what you believe in. And if they don’t, well… maybe reevaluate those relationships.]

Aligning your walk with your talk and being authentic has some pretty uplifting benefits – like a weight being lifted from your shoulders, there’s something so powerful being purposed in your choices, and living with an expectation based on your hope.

Robertson, Hope. “Being Authentic: Aligning Your Walk With Your Talk.” Minto Express 24 Sept 2014: 5. Print.
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Tuesday

16

September 2014

Hope, She Wrote: Get Inspired

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If you can read this, I want you to know that you are a precious human life, you are alive today for a purpose, and you – yes, YOU! – can make a difference wherever you are, even if you think you’re insignificant.

Completely preaching to the choir here: Too often I find myself getting all caught up in the day-to-day responsibilities of life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge advocate for responsibility; what I mean is, sometimes I am so caught up doing all these “things” that I completely lose sight of what’s most important in life – living!

Ever find yourself in a rut, where you’ve got all this stuff happening at work or at home that you get discouraged and feeling run down? Someone’s words have hit you like salt in a wound, somebody’s got a major attitude problem and they’re taking it out on you (hurting people hurt people), or you smile or wave at someone to be nice and they just stare at you (like, who does that?!)

Yeah. I’ve been there, too. As recently as last week, in fact. And IDK about you, but when I get in one of those ruts where things just are not happening how I think they should, it’s hard to climb out of that hole and feel inspired again.

For me, I really had to take some time this past weekend to regroup and refocus, and get inspired. After a trying experience or even just the hum-drum-dull-daily-grind, here are a few helpful ways to get inspired:

  1. Learn something new. My friend Nicole and I decided that in 2014 we wanted to do something big – turns out, trips around the world are kind of expensive, so we thought we’d expand our horizons and … learn another language. Some might think it silly, but learning is FUN! Growing is a great way to really live, and to keep your mind moving.
  2. Get outside. A walk around the block, taking your dog out on some trails, or even just sitting around a campfire – getting outside helps me realize that there is so much more in this world than just me. Getting outside is a great way to experience the miracle of creation that is right in front of us!
  3. Do something you love. Personally, I’m a bookworm. Like C.S. Lewis once said, there is no cuppa tea large enough or book long enough. I love reading. You might be really into art, collecting, sports, volunteering, or even gardening! Take some time for you to do something you love – making time for yourself is a critical component to getting inspired.
  4. Do something for somebody else. Spend some time with a lonely soul, tell someone close to you how much you appreciate them, send someone flowers. Not only will it inspire them, you’ll find yourself feeling lifted.
  5. Step outside your comfort zone. Ahhh, there are days when I dread this! Trying to do one thing every day that scares you can be a HUGE challenge, especially for those days you’d rather crawl back in bed. But try it – guarantee at the end of the day, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and inspiration.

There are so many ways to get inspired, it’s impossible to list them all. I’ll leave you with a favourite quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: “The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

Robertson, Hope. “Getting Inspired.” Minto Express 10 September 2014: 6. Print.
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Tuesday

9

September 2014

Hope, She Wrote: Alleviating Anxiety

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Competing priorities between work and family. Too much to do and not enough time to do it. A bunch of bills to pay, and they never seem to stop. Broken hearts, disagreements, and other relationship issues. Wars waging and people suffering the whole world over – seems like there’s always something out there to worry about.

As long as we’re human, each one of us will worry in some way or another. It’s unavoidable. And while my worries may not be the same as the next person’s, that doesn’t make them any less legit. The problem is when you let worry consume you. Especially in today’s fast-paced world, more people seem to be carrying the weight of worry and anxiety than ever before. If you’re suffering in silence, talk to someone. Don’t let worries fester or hide them inside because you’re afraid you might be judged. I guarantee that there is someone out there who can relate, and sometimes an outside perspective can help you refocus.

According to Strong’s Concordance, the word ‘worry’ comes from the Greek merimnáö, which translated means, “a part, as opposed to the whole”. Authour Max Lucado defines worry like this: “Worry cleaves the mind, splitting thoughts between today and tomorrow. Today stands no chance against it. Fretting over tomorrow’s problems today siphons the strength you need now, leaving you anemic and weak.” When we worry, we’re not doing ourselves any favours (just the opposite, really). Worrying about your circumstances or situations never makes things better; in fact, it can actually make things worse.

So how can we worry less and have more peace? While there’s no shortage of how-to guides out there, here are a few practical ways I find helpful in my daily quest to “fret not”:

  • Pray about it. I get that not everybody believes in prayer, but for me, it is a very real thing. Also, the simple act of keeping a gratitude list can work wonders. “Count your blessings, name them one by one” – that old Bing Crosby song isn’t just for Christmas, it’s something we can put into practice everyday! You’d be surprised how much worry can be watered down when you recall how blessed you are.
  • Don’t dwell too much on the past. Or the future. I had a ten-year plan, which has become a seven-year plan – those of you who know me, know I talk about “the plan” in jest; but the truth is, I really am a planner! While it’s responsible to plan and make accommodations for the future, there’s a big difference between being responsible and fretting about the future. Letting your mind move back to the past or forward too far in the future means you aren’t able to put your all into today (see the aforementioned Greek meaning of the word ‘worry’).
  • Talk about it, and look out rather than in. Communication and conversation are two important keys to alleviating anxiety. Bottling anything up inside isn’t healthy, and if you have a confidant you can trust, sometimes sharing your worries can lessen them. Also, don’t spend too much time wallowing in self-analysis or self-pity. Get out and help someone. Put your energy into encouraging another individual rather than dwelling on yourself.

“Don’t worry about it” is a famous last phrase, but putting those words into action can be incredibly challenging. Worrying doesn’t give you any more control over your current circumstances; it only strips you of your joy in the present moment. Each day is a new opportunity to challenge ourselves to overcome our anxieties; we just have to make the choice!

Robertson, Hope. “Alleviating Anxiety.” Minto Express 27 August 2014: 5. Print.
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Friday

22

August 2014

Hope, She Wrote: Who Are Your Influences?

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My latest column for The Minto Express focuses on the subject of influence. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had some really insightful conversations with friends and family about the impact and importance of positive influences — I’m so thankful to know some pretty stellar souls who consistently inspire and exhort others around them.

The late Jim Rohn once shared this theory that we are all the average of the five people we spend the most time with. The first time I heard that statement, I questioned it’s validity, since the majority of my time is spent in an office (with some pretty cool people, but still). The friends we choose and the company we keep can have a major impact on us.

The people we choose to surround ourselves with, – like it or not, – have an influence in our lives, whether that’s good or bad. That’s a scary thought. Surround yourself with negative thinkers and pessimistic people, and chances are their attitudes will wear on you. Comparatively, surround yourself with motivated, positive, and genuine people, and eventually this could have a positive impact on you.

Not to say that we each don’t have the ability to choose our attitudes; it’s just that sometimes, (oftentimes without even being aware) we can be influenced by attitudes that directly affect our behavior. And we all know the truth: “It’s easier for others to bring you down than it is for you to lift them up.” Look at the lifestyles of your closest friends – what are their habits and traits? Are those habits and traits also present in your own life, and if so, is that a good thing? See also, “A man is known by the company he keeps”.

So how do we make sure the right things (and people) are influencing us?

Positive relationships support positive behaviours. Surround yourself with people who encourage you and inspire you to become your best self, and not the reverse. Also remember the importance of honesty. There’s this thing that Pastor Rick Warren talks about, called “sharing the truth in love” (sometimes known in professional circles as “constructive criticism”). True friends don’t sugar-coat or avoid life’s serious subject matter. They’re real about the heavy things in life, and they try to help you through.

Remember your influence. True friends are hard to find, so when you find them, nurture those relationships. Relationships are not a one-way street; they require “relating”, people! So sure, you want to surround yourself with people who positively influence you, however it’s just as important to remember that to someone, you may be their major influence. Guard your actions, and like the golden rule says, remember to cultivate that as you’d want someone to do for you.

Be true to you. One of the scary things about influence is that it often goes unnoticed until it’s pretty deeply engrained. Always remain true to who you are. Don’t lower your expectations or standards just because the people around you may not share the same values. Also, don’t get sucked in by the notion of peer pressure. Be the creation you were made to be – each one of us has a unique purpose here on this Earth.

Robertson, Hope. “Who Are Your Influences?” Minto Express 13 August 2014: 5. Print.

 

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Wednesday

30

July 2014

Hope, She Wrote: About Personal Communication

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I’m fairly dedicated to my mobile devices (yes, deviceS), but recently I’ve come to appreciate the value of real personal communication. Like the handwritten note, — for which a resurgence is long over-due, — we need a revival of real, personal communication.

Several of you shared feedback after my last column (on the art of the handwritten note), which made for some interesting discussion about personal communication (also the removal of cursive writing from schools, but we’ll save that for a later date).

I’m a “millennial”, which means I’m part of the generation who were born during a period of time when cool technological things were just starting to happen: Apple was starting to make waves, IBM introduced the AS/400, Philips introduced the CD, Sony created the Walkman, VCRs came into living rooms everywhere – and even with the introduction of such inventions, parents were still teaching their kids manners (well, some parents, anyway). Millennials (on a whole) were still taught to say “please” and “thank you”, to respect our elders, and to make eye contact whilst engaging in conversation. As the years go by, with even more new technologies being introduced, our skills at personal communication seem to be regressing. The task of parenting has become much more of a challenge (treading lightly here, as my only child is an adorable miniature schnauzer).

When I was young, concerns from my Mum and Dad related to me talking too long on the telephone or wanting to watch “just one more show” on TV after school. Today, parents have a myriad of things to be concerned about, much of which is due (at least in part) to new technologies that, quite frankly, allow children to be out of control. Today’s youth are susceptible to countless challenges that – above and beyond those related to personal communication – include bullying and health problems.

Media theorist Neil Postman once said that “technology always has unforeseen consequences, and it is not always clear, at the beginning, who or what will win, or who or what will lose.” With every advance in technology, there is a price to pay, and in today’s society, it seems that effective personal communication is the biggest loser. People struggle to formulate full sentences, we can’t make proper eye contact because our line of sight is trained on our mobile devices, and we opt for short-form BBMs or text messages rather than long-form letters sent in the post.

With these things in mind, I’d like to suggest that we should all become a bit more conscious of our own communication skills.

  • Make eye contact – Eye contact is a powerful thing (and I don’t mean stink eye). When someone speaks to you, look him or her in the eye. Interestingly enough, eye contact has long been associated with openness and honesty.
  • Practice common courtesy and speak thoughtfully – Say “please”, say “thank you”, and, don’t feel like you need to apologize (why is it so many of us use “sorry” as a filler word?)
  • Remember, people > technology – I’ll quote Neil Postman again: “You can’t just turn off a person. On the internet, you can.” Put people before technology. Set aside time to eat meals with those you care about, make a “no phones at the dinner table” rule, spend time walking and talking rather than sitting and texting.

Remember, people have hearts; nurture them.

Robertson, Hope. “About Personal Communication.” Minto Express 30 July 2014: 5. Print.
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Wednesday

16

July 2014

Hope, She Wrote: On Writing A Handwritten Letter

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I’ve written on the art of handwritten notes before, however this week’s column is inspired by some of the sweet snail mail I’ve received so far in 2014 from friends across the globe and even close to home. I hope it inspires you to pick up a pen and paper, and write to someone who’s on your mind today.

P.S. Am I the only who preferred Jane Austen’s Persuasion to Pride and Prejudice?

Who doesn’t love, – upon opening their mailbox, – receiving an envelope with their name handwritten on the front. I’m not referring to bills, or information, I’m talking about receiving a letter or a card from a friend. Doesn’t receiving a handwritten letter of some kind make you smile?

They’ve been around for ages, though as we move toward a more digital society, handwritten letters seem to be on the decline. There are several things in the world that have seen great progress, but ironically there’s one area where we seem to be regressing rather than moving forward – the art of personal communication.

The exception being few, people no longer favour writing lengthy love letters or handwritten thank-you cards. It’s all BBM or texting (or whatever the kids are doing these days). It seems we’ve become such slaves to technology that we’re too lazy to write long-form. (And don’t even get me started on the removal of cursive writing from school curriculum.)

Some of the best examples of handwritten letters can be found in classic literature. Darcy wrote to Elizabeth, a long dissertation narrating everything they’d ever been through together, to prove to her that his intentions were true and that he wasn’t a total jerk (I paraphrase, but you get the point). Perhaps even more powerful and poignant than Pride and Prejudice is the letter that appears in Austen’s Persuasion, when Wentworth professes his love to Anne for a second time (even though she’d brutally rejected him years earlier) in an attempt to win her heart once and for all. (For the record, may it be noted that on both occasions, things worked out in favour of these famous literary couples.)

The power of the handwritten letter isn’t just limited to classic literature, either. In real life, handwritten letters can have incredible impact. Think of the words shared between Kennedy and Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis, or the letters that author Agatha Christie sent to her family and friends during an around-the-world tour that reveal both adventure and heart-ache in the life of a fiercely private woman.

There is something that can be so striking and impactful about the handwritten word. With this in mind, here’s a challenge for this week, should you choose to accept it: Write a letter or a thank-you card to someone you care about. It doesn’t have to be long-winded; just be sincere and be real. Too often I think we take for granted the people who surround and who support us. So why not show some heart?

Here are some tips on how to write a handwritten note:

  1. Decide what you want to say. Thank you? I love you? You’re awesome?

  2. Pick up a pen, paper, and put down your thoughts. It doesn’t have to be complicated.

  3. To start, keep it brief. Keep your note to the point – don’t overthink it. By keeping it simple, you’ll feel more inspired to write again.

  4. Salutations and closings are key. A safe salutation is your recipient’s name followed by a comma. For a closing, be true to what’s on your heart. Jane Austen closed much of her correspondence with, “Yours affec’y” (yours affectionately).

  5. Put the note in the mail. Seems like a no-brainer, but this one is huge. You can always drop a card off to someone’s house or place of work, but send your note in the mail for optimal impact. There’s a feeling unmatched to that of pulling your mail of your mailbox and seeing a stamped letter addressed to you.

Robertson, Hope. “On Writing a Handwritten Letter.” Minto Express 16 July 2014: 5. Print.
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Monday

7

July 2014

Hope, She Wrote: On Living a Balanced Life

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Balance. It’s a difficult thing to achieve. A couple of months ago I wrote about five ways to practice slowness. Part of living more slowly [aka more fully] is learning to live a balanced life.

Growing up, my parents always encouraged me to practice “everything in moderation” – with food, exercise, studying, lifestyle, work, – knowing that taking any one thing to the extreme isn’t healthy. I haven’t always taken their advice, and more recently have learned the hard way that sometimes when you’re living out of balance, life has a way of forcing you to stop and take things into account. There is only so long that you can burn the candle at both ends, so to speak.

Between a career, volunteering, and spending time with family and friends, balance often eludes us. So how do we learn the art of balance? Here are some tips that I’ve found helpful (and am still learning) for living in moderation:

  1. Set challenging [but achievable] goals: Whether personally or professionally, it’s important to set goals for yourself that will help you grow as a person, but that aren’t extreme or unachievable. Habitually working towards a goal will help you stay focused on the task at hand and on the right track. We tend to put our energy into the right things when we have a proper focus.
  2. Don’t be ashamed about having “free” time: I recently read an insightful article in Forbes magazine on this very subject – that ‘free’ time should not mean ‘available’ time. We all need some hours on our schedule that aren’t open for others. Balance can’t be achieved with the bad word “busy”. You shouldn’t feel ashamed about having free time – we all need some time to “just be” in order to stay balanced.
  3. Remember to rest and live your best: In the middle of chasing goals and dreams, don’t forget to rest. The average person needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep to operate at 100 percent. In addition, proper nutrition and exercise are two keys to living a balanced life. Many people practice the 80/20 principle: Eating right and exercising regularly 80 percent of the time, and giving yourself a break for the other 20 percent.

Living in moderation is something learned as we grow through life. Balance doesn’t just happen; like other good habits, balance needs to be practiced everyday, with diligence.

Robertson, Hope. “On Living a Balanced Life.” Minto Express 2 July 2014: 5. Print.
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Wednesday

18

June 2014

Hope, She Wrote: Why Can’t We Just Say What We Really Mean

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Since I’ve been writing my column in The Minto Express, one of the questions I’m frequently asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?” Most of the time, my subject matter comes from conversations with my friends, observing current events, and even personal experience.

The latter is what inspired this week’s topic. For those of you reading who’ve ever closed the door to share your true heart when you had the chance, you’ll understand. It must be human nature; why is that we sometimes inadvertently avoid authenticity when we should just be straight up?

You know how there are those times when you hear the lyrics to a song and you think, “That is exactly what I am thinking but could not put into words”? Or, those times when you’re trying to have a “straight up” conversation, and you totally blow it by discombobulating your words and not making any sense?

It happens to me at least once a week.

It’s only natural that sometimes in life you’ll have a hard time putting into words exactly what you think, and even when you’re actually able to articulate your thoughts; sometimes the words just come out… wrong. Most of us don’t give the tongue a whole lot of thought, but it is such a powerful organ. I like how the book of James describes it: “The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.”

Even the smallest of words can have life-altering impact (either good or bad). That’s the reality of the things we say (or don’t say). And that is something I’ve been thinking about over the past week – the impact of my words and the consequences of my speech; knowing when to speak, and when I should hold my tongue and just sit back and shut up.

There’s this verse in Proverbs that says, “Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.” This whole notion of “guarding my tongue” is something I’m really trying to learn. And it’s not easy. Here are three suggestions that I’ve found very helpful in my quest to watch my words and – when I do – speak with meaning.

1. Use a mouth guard – think before you speak. Remember that once you’ve put it out there, you can’t take it back. This is something I have to discipline myself about daily. And trust me, it can be a struggle.

2. When in doubt, do without. Proverbs 17:28 says, “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” Enough said.

3. Spend more time listening, and less time talking. Want to cultivate real relationships and show you care? Maybe you’re one of those people who have a tendency to spend time formulating a response whilst another person is talking. Spend more time engaged in actual conversation, truly listening.

We have all said things that we regret. And, if you’re like me, you may have even regretted not saying things that you should have said. I’ll close with this quote: “We do not need an intelligent mind that speaks, but rather a patient heart that listens.” Choose your words wisely, and speak authentically.

Robertson, Hope. “Why Can’t We Just Say What We Really Mean?” Minto Express 18 June 2014. 5, Print.
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