Change your tone


He is friendly, introducing himself to me, and I to him. He asks for diapers in multiple sizes. I’m not sure how many kids he has, but I tend not to ask at Manna House. If we have it, we give it away, no questions asked.

But we only give one sack per person. And he wants more.

Sometimes you sense a scam coming on. His tone is changing. He presses in. I press back.  We have to share with everyone, and if I give you extras, we won’t have enough for others, I tell him.

With a tone of my own.

He doesn’t let up. He’s begging for what he needs.

I sigh. I give in. I tell him okay, this time. But keep it quiet.

Still with my tone.

I walk to the back to get another supply for him, long enough for God to work on me.

Sometimes the Spirit breathes quickly.

I reach for another sack of diapers, smelling my own stench of stinginess.
Of ego.
Of law-keeping.

Yes, in theory, we give one helping per person, but the goal is to give love to others as God gives to us.

     And God loves to overflowing.

When I beg God for something I think I need, God doesn’t answer me with a tone. Maybe he gives what I ask, maybe not, but either way, he answers with love.

I hand off the diapers to the gentleman. He looks me in the eye, gives me a genuine thank you. He says he appreciates it. Really.

I believe him. Because of his tone. I say I really do want to help, however I can.

I hope my tone shows I mean it.

Lord, have mercy.

Was I scammed out of a few extra diapers? Who cares?

What’s important is that I learn:

It’s not just what we say, but how we say it.
It’s not only our words that count, it’s also our tone.
It’s not just our love we’re representing, it’s God’s love.

May we set a tone of love.

* * *

Step 8 of my One Word 2014: Compassion is, “How we speak to one another.”

When have you used a bad tone with others? How have you learned to drop it? I’d love to hear.

sharing at Trusting Tuesdays

24 thoughts on “Change your tone

  1. Linda@Creekside

    Lisa … thank you for putting the issue of stinginess on the table. It speaks to a deeper level of our hearts that’s ugly and petty. And others can sense it a mile away even though we think we have it tucked in deep. I’m re-reading this post again right now.

    Hefty food for thought this Monday morning, friend. I wish you a lovely, generous week …


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It’s not fun to look at those ugly parts of our hearts, but sometimes they stare us straight in the face. I’m glad God is at least gentle in how he lets us uncover them. Praying you have a great week too, Linda.

  2. Sharon

    You know, tone of voice is so important. It’s one of the reasons that I don’t like communication via text or email. You cannot *read* what a person’s tone of voice is, and there is way too much room for misinterpretation. However, in our failings, even in person our tone can be wrong.

    May the Lord free me of being suspicious, confrontational, or apathetic. May He teach us how to be kind and gentle. May He lead us to be like Him, in our words and in the way we say them.


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree totally, Sharon. I love written communication, but it’s so easy to misinterpret, reading into it whatever attitude we might imagine. In person, we can catch so many other clues about true intention.

      I love your series of “May the Lord…” I’m praying them for myself right now too…

  3. Natalie

    Your words give that gentle challenge. We talk about how email and texting are hard to interpret because of the lack of other cues: facial expression, body language, tone. Tone breathes life into our words, I like to think. The reality is that too often I succumb to the opposite. Mixed among your words was a 6 word reminder that I have work to do alongside God’s grace: What’s important is that I learn. Thanks for that.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      “Tone breathes life…” So true, Natalie. Good life or bad life; we choose. I’m still learning to work alongside God’s grace too. Thanks for sharing that.

  4. Joe Pote

    Oh, tone and context are everything, aren’t they?

    And how easily a tone can be misunderstood even with the best of intentions…and how much more tone amplifies slightly selfish or deprecating intentions…

    Yes, this is one of my on-going battles. When my wife and I get upset with one another, more often than not it is about tone…and impressions…and assumptions. One of us reads a negative context in the other’s tone and gets defensive…which draws a defensive position from the other…

    I’m learning to say things like, “I’m sorry! I didn’t intend to come across so negative. Please let me start over and try again.”

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      It’s an on-going battle for me, too, Joe. It’s so easy to misinterpret someone else’s intentions based on our own thoughts of what they mean. A piece of advice I have to give myself often with Jeff is to assume the best instead of the worst. Probably saved us from a few fights. 🙂

      I’m sure your wife really appreciates your willingness to say you’re sorry and ask for a re-do. That’s an offer that’s hard to refuse.

  5. Katie

    sigh….. so often I hear a tone or give a tone to someone….. trying hard to let it be grace and love but it doesn’t happen as often as I would like it to. Thank you friend.

  6. floyd

    Your spiritual wrestling match with yourself says it all… and our Father sees it too, sister. God bless and keep striving to honor Him. That’s the example for all of us.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I do tend to wrestle with God probably more often than I should. Maybe that’s why my joints hurt so much. ha. Thanks for your encouragement to keep striving to honor him.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m glad you shared your link, Beth. Clean Grace–yes, that stings because that’s how we want to give it. But thankfully God views things differently since we’re all messy people.

  7. Beverley

    so many food banks, so many people in need these days its almost crazy! I feel i am very blessed because in times of desperation the church will help with welfare needs such as food and nappies and someone i know well said to me recently that someone else had ordered the food on their behalf and there was twice as much as what they were expecting and i replied then make sure you use it wisely and share it when you can.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      (Confession first: I had to look up “nappies” since I didn’t know the term. Diapers, right?) Your story of someone getting twice the amount they expected reminds me of Jesus feeding the 5000. May he give us wisdom in handing things out, and may he multiply it as it goes!

  8. Amber @ Beautiful Rubbish

    Oh ouch, Lisa. This one hit me in a place I’ve been struggling lately, too. Working with the public as I do, in customer service, I can grow very weary of feeling taken advantage of. I get stingy, stubborn, resentful and nit-picky, and it’s never something I’m proud of. It can be hard to know, in different settings where what we’re giving away isn’t ours to give freely, per se, how to have that boundary – but the tone and the love ARE ours to give away, and as you said, overflowing. I want to overflow. Thank you for this.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Working directly with the public has to be very difficult, Amber. I had a retail job one summer and it taught me a lot…about myself. ha. (And about the worth of good shoes!) Your point is a valid one that we do have to operate within boundaries with our physical resources, but our spiritual resources are an everlasting spring. Thanks for sharing this.

  9. Pamela

    Oh the tone! It makes all the difference in the world–in marriage, parenting and church, too. We once helped a family at Christmas time who gave a sad story. Our church people truly sacrificed to give. Then I found we were one of about 10 churches who fulfilled the need–if it was the need. I’ll never forget what the senior pastor told me–“it’s ours to answer, regardless of the outcome.” I’ve had to use that advise more than once since then. ~Pamela

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Excellent words from your senior pastor, Pamela. Sometimes we will be duped, but that’s not on us; it’s on the person doing the deceiving. Our task is to give as best and as wisely as we know how, and leave the rest up to God. Thanks for sharing this. Good advice.

  10. Micah

    First time visiting here. Love this post! I think this is something God is drawing my attention to at the moment. To being more open and giving with my time and energy and resources, even when I feel stretched and feel like holding back. So this is very timely for me. Thanks for writing.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Glad you stopped by, Micah. I really hope to pay more attention this month to how we all talk to each other, and see which is encouraging and which is not.

      Praying for your stretching to be more open goes well!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Thanks, Amy. Your One Word reminder in the middle of the month is a great time for me to check on my resolution of the month to make sure I’m doing it. I could always be doing better with tone. 😉

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