Building Up (Guest Post by Tanya Marlow)

Brik wal falling downToday I’m delighted to welcome Tanya Marlow as guest poster on the blog. Tanya writes at Thorns and Gold, and I’ve gotten to know her through twitter as well as her blog.

Tanya always writes with such honesty and grace about her faith and struggle living with a chronic illness. It’s an honour to have Tanya posting here today and I’m certain you’re going to learn a lot from her: 


It is always easier to tear down than to build up.

I watch my little boy playing with his Lego.

“And then this goes on top of here,” he explains, “and this one, and this one.”

He carefully selects each brick: red on top of blue, two to match the other side, a bridge over the pillars – no, not a bridge- he’s changed his mind – a bright tower. Here a door, there a window; he creates his world with such care, and I pour over my Mummy superlatives: “excellent – that’s beautiful, darling.”

There is beauty in seeing a small person start out in creativity. I enjoy watching the miniature world slowly take shape under his fingers.

And then he gets tired, the first small sign of frustration – it’s not going how he wants it. He has trouble separating the bricks and he’s just two years old – he won’t have the patience or strength to do it himself. If it were the start of the morning he would come to me with a request to help him with it – but it is just before tea time and he is hungry and tired, and a little grumpy.

He exhales, draws back his hand and -smash! – the bricks are in pieces all over the floor.

The pillars are in two, the door and window are halfway across the room, tower sticking out of the bottom of the sofa. I watch his face closely. It is not the same look of satisfaction he had when he was one and learning that skill for the first time. His smile looks resentful, somehow – as though he knew that the pleasure in destroying his tower was so fleeting as to have been a waste.

We slowly pick up the remaining pieces and put them back in the box and I think about how I use my words.

It is always easier to destroy than to build up. (you can tweet that here)

It is the lazy thing; often the thing that comes from a moment of tiredness or hunger, when you can’t be bothered to persevere with that tricky relationship any more and you don’t want to ask for help. It is easier to tear down with words, to go for the cheap laugh, the sarcastic retort, the outraged rant.

To speak in order to build other up – to spot the good, to hold back, believe the best, to pause and select a more positive spin – that is the hard thing, the better thing.

I want to be the person who builds others up, who uses my words to encourage.

It requires more concentration and care, it doesn’t deliver that thrill of having seen your power displayed so dramatically –

but it looks more beautiful in the end.


blog-photo-corfu-374x500Tanya Marlow was formerly in Christian ministry for a decade and was Associate Director and lecturer for a university-level Bible training course.

Now she reads Bible stories to her toddler as she learns what it means to be a mum who is housebound with an autoimmune illness. She blogs at Thorns and Gold, on the Bible, Suffering, and the messy edges of life. 

Follow Tanya on Twitter or like her Facebook page.



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  1. MelAnn Morales on April 9, 2013 at 6:14 am

    My son is obsessed with Legos. Eventually they do learn not to smash their creations prematurely!

    • James Prescott on April 9, 2013 at 6:19 am

      Thanks for commenting MelAnn – I loved Lego when I was a kid, we all learn eventually not to destroy what we create. Thanks again!

    • Tanya Marlow on April 9, 2013 at 2:52 pm

      Yes – I guess the next stage will be forbidding Mum to ever take his immaculate creation apart – which will be a very different sort of challenge… 🙂 Thanks for stopping by to read.

  2. James Prescott on April 9, 2013 at 6:21 am

    Tanya, this is a wonderful post. A great metaphor for the power of words, and above all the power of encouragement. I totally agree with every single word.

    Thanks for sharing this Tanya, an honour to have you guest posting here.

  3. Joy Lenton on April 9, 2013 at 9:18 am

    Oh yes, “It is always easier to destroy than to build up”. Words escape our lips, pens, phones or laptops and inflict their damage on the unwitting victim/s. It takes great awareness, time, patience and love for others to help us to speak positively into their lives as an automatic reflex rather than a rare event. Yet, the positive effects can be literally life-changing and transforming. I am a woman after your own heart here, Tanya, as I seek to encourage and bring the light and love of Christ to others. Though I know my own heart all too well and how often I fail to say or do the right thing, especially with those closest to me. A lovely reflection that encourages us all because our lives have potential to look “more beautiful in the end”. Thank you, sweet encouraging friend! 🙂 xx

    • Tanya Marlow on April 9, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      Joy – you are someone whose words are always so beautifully uplifting. You have built me up on so many occasions, and I am very thankful for you and your words. I reckon you definitely have the spiritual gift of encouragement!

    • James Prescott on April 9, 2013 at 3:47 pm

      Have to second Tanya here Joy, as I’ve said to you time and again – you have an incredible gift of encouragement, a divine gift to use words to lift people up. Here you do so again. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.

  4. Eydie on April 9, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Love the lego comparison! Thank you for sharing…both of you!

    • Tanya Marlow on April 9, 2013 at 2:54 pm

      Thanks, Eydie – it’s lovely to see you here!

    • James Prescott on April 9, 2013 at 3:46 pm

      No problem – my privilege to host Tanya!

  5. Mia on April 9, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Dear Tanya
    Oh, my friend, you truly are such an encouragement to us all. The fact that you have the same illness as me, makes your words always so more real to me. Your honesty about your struggles with ME speaks of a girl who doesn’t know all the answers, but she knows her Lord.
    Blessings to you

    • Tanya Marlow on April 9, 2013 at 2:55 pm

      Thanks, dear Mia – I really appreciate it, lovely lady.

  6. Helen Murray on April 9, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Great post. I know that I need to build up my seven year old daughter who is short of confidence and having trouble with the horrid girls at school, and I spend ages telling her how proud I am of her, how hard she tries, how kind she was to her little sister etc… only to tear the whole fragile thing down in a few harsh words at bath time or bedtime. This really spoke to me. Thank you.

    • Tanya Marlow on April 9, 2013 at 2:56 pm

      YES! I totally know this experience too – and then you just want to snatch those words right back again, and it’s too late. Thank you for sharing so honestly – you are SO not alone in this…

  7. Eileen Knowles on April 9, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    A great and much needed reminder all the time!

  8. MarkAllman on April 9, 2013 at 3:26 pm


    You are an encouragement!!

    I think we should try to act instead of react; that we should measure our response not against the stimulus but against what is the most positive thing that could be done in this instance. Sometimes the most appropriate response and the one that does the most encouragement is no response.

    To extend grace in the face of anger; and frustration shows your compassion. To love when a person is unlovely is a great gift you can give. To give to a stranger is such an encouragement as well; to step in and help and step away without being known.

    I think a great encouragement is to choose not to be offended when you could choose to be so. To let an offense hit you and fall away is one of the most gracious things one can do. It may not be recognized at the point in time but it helps you not be bitter and can help the offender long term to know your gracious choice in the face of their offense.

  9. James Prescott on April 9, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Great to see everyone here encouraging one another – this is most definitely an encouraging post & encouragement is a theme I’m passionate about (my free e-book is about encouragement). Love the responses here!

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