Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Lesson At My Expense

Doctor's scale
     Little did I know, when I entered the podiatrist's office seeking a remedy to my foot pain,  that I would also learn a lesson about the importance of watching our words.  While waiting at the reception desk to get my insurance card back, a lady introduced herself to me and had recognized that two of my sons had worked at the church she currently attends.  She was so sweet and kind and I was delighted to see her again.  She explained that she had brought a friend with her who needed to see the doctor.
     Upon returning to her seat, she explained to her neighbor how she knew me and made several complimentary comments about me.  Her neighbor then proceeded to indicate that I was overweight and needed to lose a few pounds if I wanted to appear attractive.  I pretended that I had not heard their conversation since we were quite a distance apart in the waiting area.  However, I have to tell you that those words cut through me at the time.  In some ways, I was amused and thought this must be God's way of reminding me that Christmas was over and I needed to get more committed to my diet again.  Certainly the elderly lady making the loud remarks in the crowded room was oblivious to the fact that everyone could hear her including me.  Then, I wondered to myself if they treated "foot in mouth" disease at this office too because this lady had definitely done that.  The lady who had been so sweet to me said nothing while her friend rambled on, and I can only imagine she was silently hoping I had not heard her remarks.
     As I reflected on this incident, I wasn't so much hurt about the comments on my weight as I know I have been working on this area for some time now.  What concerned me was the fact that things like this happen every day in the work place, at home, and at social church.  Talking about someone in a manner that is derogatory or unhelpful is sin.  There isn't anyone reading this that hasn't at one time or another talked about another person behind his/her back...or in this case, a very public place.  I am as guilty as the next person.  The Bible has a lot to say about our speech, but two scriptures stand out in this area.
     Proverbs 16:23-24:   "The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips.  Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body."  Then, James 3:7-11 reads:  "For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.  My brothers, these things ought not be so.  Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?"  I can vouch for the admonition that James gives.  There have been ample times when I was corrected as a child for opening my mouth and speaking hurtful words.  Even as a Christian, I said something unkind to a brother in the Lord and my dear husband called me to account.  I called that brother and sincerely apologized for my fiery tongue.
     Sadly, people think that it doesn't matter what we say about someone else in secret as they will never find out.  Yet, I have seen it happen over and over again that what was said in secret later becomes public knowledge and damage is done to relationships.  God calls Christians to a higher standard of conduct when it comes to our speech.  As the Proverb above admonishes us, we need to be judicious in what we say and make our words sweet.  It brings health to the body when someone has a good word for their neighbor.
     My mother used to tell me that there is "criticism" and then, there is "constructive criticism".  One tends to tear someone else down because we see faults in them.  The other addresses them in a kind manner to seek a resolution to some issue.  I have to agree that being a peacemaker is in line with what James was driving at in chapter 3.  He concludes his address concerning the evil tongue and other sins by giving us a look at God's wisdom in verses 17 and 18:  "But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."  This is the way we are to conduct ourselves.  We are to be holy as God is holy through the guidance and grace of the Holy Spirit.
     Therefore, my lesson for the day is this:  Be careful what you say, in front of whom you say it and measure your words carefully before uttering them because even if the person you are talking about is not present....God is.  Jesus said in Matthew 12:36-37:  "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."  May our words be judicious, kind, full of mercy, tender, filled with the love of Christ, truthful and spoken to exhort a brother rather than judgmental, harsh or critical....because one day, we will be called into account.  Selah!


Kate Webb said...

This reinforces an already active conviction -- my tongue constantly needs rededication!! Lord, help us remember the "golden rule" and do to/for others what we hope others do to/for us. The old saying is a good rule: If you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything!

Barbara Thayer said...

Amen to what you wrote Kate! How true it is that we need to live by the Golden Rule daily. This whole incident was a good lesson learned for me! Thank you for your comment and for stopping by!