In this week’s Torah portion, Hashem instructs Moshe to speak to the rock to bring forth water for the people. Instead of following these exact instructions, Moshe is flustered by the congregation’s nagging and hits the rock. Furthermore he calls the people “you rebels.” Moshe’s reaction does not please G-d, and Moshe is consequently punished.
Luckily for us, the bible is not filled with perfected angels treading on clouds, but rather with actual people living on the rough terrain of life, providing stories we can learn from.
How Moshe reacted makes me think about what regular people do in frustration. Most of us (not me,) raise our voices and find some way to bully our viewpoints through. Who of us can say (maybe me) that we have not once used name-calling to try to inspire someone to improve?
Parents, teachers, and spouses especially hold very close mirrors that can reflect a lasting picture. Calling a person lazy, stubborn, dumb, sickly or annoying is like placing a permanent and damaging brand on his or her self-image. While it is better to say: You are acting lazy, dumb, sickly, and/or annoying, it is still better is to say: You are helping me so much, I love what you are saying, you look better today, thanks for being so kind, showing such patience…
And when loved ones just don’t inspire these words, I say, hold your tongue and look harder.