“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”Ephesians 4:29
It happened. You said it. It’s out there like the bursting open of a bulging feather pillow. Scattered and blowing. What were you thinking? You weren’t. It felt good to say it, but now it stings. Instantly, it’s unconfined, like a virus spreading. Your name with unkind remarks embellished and swirling. Words travel in warp speed. I’m guilty and regretful. I’m also ashamed. And…I don’t think I’m alone.
Ask any thief. Stealing is illegal, yet taking someone’s reputation, credibility, or value and trashing it also makes us crooks. In this crazy world of rampant accusations and positioning, we often disrespect, diminish, and dishonor those we disagree with without respectful exchange, but with heightened condemnations.
Be reminded. This behavior is nothing new.
It is found in 2 Samuel 16:5-13 in the story of Shimei casting stones and cursing King David. Not a good look or outcome then or now. Exodus 23 also makes it crystal clear that being a malicious witness or spreading false reports puts us on the wrong team headed for the wrong goal line. And haven’t we all felt the gut punch of an accusation leveled against us by a deceiving tongue? It’s debilitating, until we remember that everyone will give an account for every empty word they have spoken (Matthew 12:36) and our just and perfect Judge will make all things right. That gives me peace and the proper motivation.
I’m not one for personal tattoos, yet it might be worth considering if the words we spoke appeared on our skin; would we be beautiful or sour, compassionate or judgmental, thoughtful or degrading? Our wardrobe might change for extended coverage.
Yes, it’s what we do after we’re sorry that matters.
Were we sorry when they were unaware? (Read that again.) Do we excuse, downplay, or confess? Certainly, people have a lot to say about lives they’ve never lived, but let’s be clear. Criticism isn’t always about finding faults, but typically about faults different than our own. What does the Bible say about falling short (Romans 3:23)? It’s universal. Satan loves those high horses we mount, feeding on the faults of others. It’s in those “gotcha” hot mic moments that reveal our heart condition.
Paul David Tripp explains, “Because sin kidnaps the desires of our heart, blinds our eyes, weakens our knees” (and spews from our mouths), we need the power and presence of the Holy Spirit actively at work inside us.
We need a spiritual realignment, a prayerful shocking of our heart to be back in rhythm with His.
Life has certainly taught me that you can’t control someone’s loyalty. It can feel a bit like catching a grenade if the disappointment isn’t filtered through God’s perspective of grace. Yet there are some meaningful takeaways:
- If they can’t dialogue privately, it’s usually their attempt for attention.
- Consider the source. Is it mean or constructive? Is it someone you would seek for wisdom or guidance?
- Give yourself compassion. Process objectively and only keep what is helpful.
- Take is “under advisement” and refuse to see it as a personal attack.
Legendary Coach John Wooden makes it concise, “You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.” Funny how getting caught up in criticism or gossip makes a lot more of our words questionable. Jean Sibelius rightly states, “A statue is never erected in honor of a critic.” Let’s face it, some people will sink the Titanic just because they aren’t the Skipper!
One thing’s for certain. Hearts ruled by the Holy Spirit seldom fear or deal with the fallout from hot mic embarrassments and questionable comments. Sometimes, we simply need to give ourselves the forgiveness offenders never ask for. How careful are we with our words? They can last a lifetime in building up or tearing down what God has created and called good.
Gary Hopkins observes, “People who criticize the harshest, usually are the ones who would trade places the fastest.” Let’s learn and imitate the Master teacher. The only one qualified to throw a stone…didn’t.