Earlier this week I spoke unkindly about someone close to me, and they directly heard me say the words (I didn’t know they were on speakerphone). I spoke the truth, but I would never have made the statement if I knew they were listening.
Clearly, the lesson of Ephesians 4 that Keith preached on a few weeks ago did NOT sink in. He stated that although the First Amendment grants us the freedom of speech by law, as Christians, we live by a superseding set of principles. These tenets are explained by Verses 25-32, and require us to ask ourselves three questions before speaking:
- Is it true?
Is it necessary?
Is it kind?
If the statement I’m about to make fails one of these prongs, then I shouldn’t respond. My statement failed parts two and three – it was unhelpful and unkind. Yet still I spoke. Why?
To make a joke.
To mutually complain.
To be mean.
So it probably serves me right to have the person I spoke about actually hear what I said. But I love this person, too. And I feel terrible about hurting them. And I hate having people I love angry with me.
The words I spoke have consequences. The person I spoke about tends to hold grudges – I’m talking about decades-long grudges. That’s their prerogative. But I plan to call today and apologize for my hurtful words, and ask for forgiveness.*
And moving forward, I can work towards thinking about the three questions before speaking. When I’m angry and ask myself, ‘Is it true?,’ I can attend to my anger. Not with silence or violence, but with truth through looking at the root of my anger.
Next, I can ask, ‘Is it necessary?’ Am I helping the other person? Just like the thief being given a new purpose in verses 28-29, how can I use my power through my words to build up?
Finally, I can ask, ‘Is it kind?’ This will be the hardest because I find myself drawn to negative thoughts and harsh statements. It is incredibly easy for them to slip out of my mouth and judge. I judge others so much and find myself full of rage these days with our governmental leaders, people who support them, and people who fundamentally disagree with the way I believe people should be treated.
But there’s hope because I’m a work in progress. I’ve been marked by God through grace. Not by anything I have done, not because I’m a good person, but because He/She has identified me as His/Hers. And I strive to live up to that call of holy unity by being kind and forgiving others, including forgiving myself when I harshly speak without thinking. That’s my Christian freedom.
*Please pray for me today as I call my loved one to ask for their forgiveness. I desperately need courage because (1) I hate making phone calls and (2) This person intimidates me even when they aren’t mad at me. Thank you.