Save your breath

I’m a bit flabbergasted today, at the venom and aggression in our culture. The way it’s just woven into our daily lives right now. I’ve had a recent bad experience with a Facebook post that attacked a friend and although I follow only a few very select pals (and granddaughters), I’ve just heard about another horrible post leaving someone in tears. Wow! Where does all this desire for poking people in the eye come from? And when did it become socially acceptable to be unashamedly foul? I’d even say ‘proudly foul’. We are a divisive and quarrelsome lot. We just shout it out, don’t we? Blah blah bah! Me, my and mine.

Facebook. It’s a terrorist’s handbook “How to do massive damage from the comfort of your own laptop,”

I had a pastor who would say that simple but true phrase ‘It’s better to be kind than to be right.’ He said a lot of lovely things – he went through a phase of saying, with a broad smile ‘Jesus is brilliant – he says the words our hearts need to hear.’ My pal Jane and I would dig each other in the ribs and chuckle. We loved hearing that, the warmth and simplicity and truth of it. That’s what we should aim for, we should aim to say the words our listeners need to hear. Words to build up and encourage, to cheer and not demean. Words of love for goodness sake.

Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not
traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. 1 Corinthians 13:4-6 (TPT)

Facebook, Twitter, the largely unregulated comments on news sites, and all the other anonymous or semi-anonymous forums, don’t know much about love. But it’s not just the internet. It’s culture, society, us. I read a very good comedy script the other day, really good, written by a bright and talented woman, and in the middle of it she unfavourably compared a hard working politician with the perverted child killer Myra Hindley. Really? This democratically elected accountable woman, a mother, is worse than a sexual predator and serial murderer? Political opposition has become so routinely vicious that we barely notice how we’ve degenerated into a brawling mob. The script was about love, and in the middle of it, POW! an explosion of naked tribal hatred.

We all, it seems, think we are right. All the time. About everything. And having eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we think that we alone know the difference, and are entitled to say every little thing that comes to mind. No filter, just spew it out…

It’s the same with conversation, with political debate, with emails.

Oh! Emails. Here I go. It’s too easy to send an ‘honest’ and searing and extremely wise email putting the whole world or someone else to rights. Far too easy. I say this from experience, having been on both ends of those emails, sending and receiving. If you really really need to write them, write them. And then delete them. I have sent emails that I should have deleted and I’ve hurt the recipient. It’s all too easy.

I received one a few weeks ago that has paralysed me. I know that its most hurtful accusations are untrue, I know that the sender wrote in anger, that he’s in a difficult place in his life, that he now feels wretched to have revealed so much bile but, nevertheless, it has paralysed me. Affected my life. Here we are… stuck. Poor chap, how does he ‘unstuck’ himself and me? That’s what angry words can do, they can cripple both the speaker and the listener, the writer and the reader.

The world seems to be a shouty, bullish, belligerent place just now, and you and me, we’re part of that world. So, what do we do to avoid adding to the chaos?

Here’s good test, one that I’ve started using when I’m about to let rip and jolly well say it like it is…. it comes from Proverbs 12:18

Reckless words are like the thrusts of a sword,
    cutting remarks meant to stab and to hurt.
    But the words of the wise soothe and heal.

I ask myself ‘Do I want to hurt or to heal?’ To stab or soothe?

If you can’t imagine Jesus saying it, save your breath, leave it unsaid. Instead say a little silent “Oops, Lord! Nearly put my foot in it again.”

He knows our thoughts and forgives them, honours our silence, and loves us. And guess what? Whatever is wrong with the world, or with the person we’re speaking to, or the subject we’re speaking about, God can fix it. Only God.

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