Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Careless Words

     Many years ago while I was becoming acquainted with using a computer, I joined a group of individuals who had all experienced the scourge of polio.  I thought it would be helpful to exchange information and encourage one another.  The internet group was very large made up of people from all over the country.  I developed some wonderful friendships, but I also got myself into a lot of trouble.
     There were several of us who were Christians in the group and whenever we would try to encourage others about our faith, some would grumble and say unkind things about Christians.  At times, they would mock our comments about prayer and Bible study.  After several months of this type of abuse, I privately wrote to a Christian friend saying that these folks were not very kind in their remarks.  I also expressed a desire to form a Christian group for polio survivors so we could have a place of sweet fellowship not marked by dissension, hurt feelings and ugly comments.  Being new to the internet, I hit the send button not realizing that the email address I had used was the group email and not my friend's private email.  When I became aware of what I had done, I was mortified.  All my private thoughts now went screaming out to the group as a whole.  I felt ruined and totally undone.  I think I cried for about an hour.
     Once words are sent into cyberspace or spoken, they cannot be taken back.  I immediately wrote to the group as a whole and apologized for the message I accidentally sent out.  I told them all how sorry I was if I had hurt any feelings.  Some were forgiving and others were not.  After much thought, I decided to leave this group knowing that my credibility and trustworthiness had been damaged by my careless prose.
     In the book of Luke, Jesus told his disciples to be careful of the leaven (or influence) of the Pharisees.  These were a group of very religious people who made a great show of their righteousness but were full of hypocrisy.  In the day of judgment when all will come to light, the Lord proclaimed:  "Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.  Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops" (Luke 12:2-3).  With a warning like this, all who are called by the name of Christ should take notice.  Any one of us can easily fall into the sin of gossip, backbiting, tale bearing or complaining.  Whether it is verbal, written or emailed, the failure to guard our words can lead to division and hurt feelings.
     Though it may be difficult, our best choice if we have some issues with another is to talk to them directly.  In my case, I should have simply left this big internet group quietly.  As I discovered, emails, text messages, and social media can easily trip us up.  Therefore, as believers, we need to take heed and avoid negative messages filled with complaints.  Then, if the message is seen by others, we have nothing to fear.
     I firmly believe that most of us forget that whether others hear our secret whisperings or not...God still does, and we are accountable to Him.  Jesus said:  "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak for by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:36-37).  The footnote in my Reformation Study Bible says:  "Jesus indicates that words, even carelessly spoken words, are eternally important.  In the Bible verbal sins such as lies, gossip, or insults are condemned as severely as adultery and murder" (pg 1381 The Reformation Study Bible).
     This puts a whole new slant on things doesn't it?  As Christians, we must make the prayer of David our prayer:  "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer" (Psalm 19:14).  When we keep our words tender, it will not be so difficult if we have to eat them one day as I did.  I was embarrassed and ashamed that I had hurt others. God forgave me for my sin.  Some in the group also forgave me, but I blemished my witness to these people.  Let us remember that others are watching us and listening to us every day.  Are we modeling Jesus or the world?  Guard your words and you will also protect your heart from sin.  Selah!

Have you ever had a situation where your unkind words got back to someone?  What did you do?  How did you resolve it?  I would love to hear from you.


Christina said...

Barbara -- this is a great admonishment for us all! I've been thinking lately about the tenor of civil discourse in this country (especially during the political season) and I am painfully aware of the reckless way of relating to one another that is so prevalent. Yet, we as Christians, are to examine our own lives in light of this and see where we fall short. May God sanctify our speech and give us grace to speak the Truth from a pure heart and without guile. Your devotionals are always such a blessing.

Christina said...
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Barbara Thayer said...

Thanks Christina. I appreciate you sweet words. And yes, I do wish the tenor of our civil discourse would sweeten up. We can disagree about things but do so in a way that does not demean someone else. Oh...may the Lord help us in this area. Blessings friend!

Anonymous said...

" I hit the send button not realizing that the email address I had used was the group email and not my friend's private email."

OUCH!!! I feel your pain sister - Years ago I got an email from a friend who said she'd received by accident an email I intended to send to someone else - My heart immediately started pounding trying to remember what I had written. Some things may not be vicious but just highly personal. Thank you for this good reminder to be careful with all of our words, both written and spoken.

Barbara Thayer said...

You are welcome my friend. I thought I should share what happened to me. It is emblazoned on my memory as though a branding iron put it there. It serves as a good lesson to me to be careful what I say and do. How easily we can fall prey to our emotions of the moment! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your situation too. Glad I am not the only one who has sent something I didn't mean to!! YIKES! Lord help us to keep our words in line with Your Word!