Within our valiant pines
gnaw the inner life. Left
unaddressed, they will
riddle the heartwood.
Their labyrinths glisten
with eggs that hatch
and hatch—over time,
the infiltration, fatal.
Here on the ground, among our kind, a similar fate looms. Chronic negativity may infect our sense of self, our family members, even our projects; it eats away at our moods, impairing growth.
In a heartbeat, online interactions veer into all-cap shouting. Name calling. Threats.
Who will soothe the raveled temper with a cheeky bon mot?
One dictionary translates the French expression to mean a “good word”; another defines it as “a message whose ingenuity or verbal skill or incongruity has the power to evoke laughter.”
Do you, like me, long to somehow counter the chronic, insidious sowing of doubt—the kind that kills rather than spurs constructive debate?
I often miss the moment. During heated conversations, I retreat. Hours later the sparkling comeback arrives. No matter. I can still make a call, send an email or text, perhaps mail that droll card I’ve been saving. Or write a blog post.
In increasingly uncivil settings, at work or at church, in the family or in the public square, we can still alter an atmosphere—one word, one byte—at a time.
Call it a disarming enactment of upbeat stealth.
“A word spoken in due season, how good it is!” Proverbs 15:23
A joke won’t save an infested tree. An invitation to shared laughter just might defuse a human standoff—perhaps preserve a relationship.
But . . . it’s harder than this, right? We must also challenge today’s fractious culture that vetoes extending respect. A listening ear.
The beleaguered tree—consumed from within—seems a fitting metaphor. What about metamorphic bias we already harbor? Meta, means “change” and morphe, “form.”
When shocked or frightened or wounded by others, or just plain bugged, sometimes I want to lash out. Might a good word from God’s Word alter my stance by several degrees?
Or will I succumb to a hardening mindset?
Take obsidian: rapidly cooled magma transformed by volcanic heat and pressure becomes natural glass. It’s black. Hard. Glossy and sharp enough to cut someone.
Volatile human interactions lacking respect tend to consume or even calcify hearts and minds.
- Hear both sides, I tell myself. Especially when it chafes.
- Learn by observing those who can converse with enemies.
- Go gently among those with a half-glass outlook, their alter Eeyore expecting the worst.
Pause. Lean into the small silence. Is this the moment to speak?
Perhaps the Spirit will reveal a comic incongruity. Shared laughter reestablishes common ground.
You might also feel nudged to offer a bon mot. Or trust grace amid the shared silence to work in ways beyond comprehension.
Either way, in the moment or afterward, offer a stealth prayer.
Friends, have you overheard a quote or a bon mot that dispelled angst? Do you have one of your own?
Please share in the comments!
You might also enjoy this one from the archive: Own a Better View