Well. Here goes nothin’,,,,
Actually, here goes something that has been lingering in the back of my mind since I started writing several years ago. Until today I have been too chicken to tell this story to the masses. I am still afraid, don’t get me wrong, but for whatever reason, I am sensing that today is the day that someone just might need to hear this. Take what you like and leave the rest (for later 😬).
Part of why I have been scared to tell you about this incident, is because not only does it make me sound like an arrogant, selfish little brat, but it will shine a light on some of my current behavior, proving I have not made enormous progress in this particular area. OK-now I am just stalling….
In high school I sang in a choir. I sang soprano and regularly auditioned against my soprano nemesis for the same solos. It was a petty and ego-driven competition between us that lasted for 4 years. To make matters worse, we went to the same church. I had known her and her family for many years before that.
One day, I was sitting in my car in a downtown parking lot after shopping. A boy-friend of mine happened to pass by and stopped to chat for a few minutes, standing outside my car as I sat in the drivers seat with the window down. Somehow, this particular girl came up and I proceeded to bash her, gossiping and criticizing for several minutes.
I don’t remember what I said exactly, but I knew it was bad because my heart flipped as the boy eventually walked away and who should be sitting in the car next to me, also with her window down, but her mother!
Let’s just all pause a moment so we can digest this situation and collectively freak out……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..!
Remember, this was a time before cell phones. So I couldn’t text or call this girl immediately before her mom could get to her and relay my “message”. So I did the only logical thing a girl in the 80’s would do–I raced home as fast as I could and called that girl from my landline, confessing everything. I was humble and apologetic and admitted to her that I was jealous and insecure and was so sorry for all I had said. I told her everything I had said and made up excuses as to why, as if that would lessen the blow. I can’t remember what she said (I am sure she thought I was out of my mind) but after that, things were actually a little better between us.
There. I said it. I hate that because of social media and all our connections, many of you will easily figure out who I am talking about. That part sort of makes me want to throw up. But at least one of my most embarrassing moments is off my chest.
So, what is my point, other than relieving myself of such shame?
This is the part that is probably more embarrassing for me to admit than the story above: I still do that.
Maybe not in front of your momma, but in front of the God who created you and everyone else.
I have to realize that when I talk trash about someone, when I complain or judge or gossip or criticize it is essentially the same as me ripping that girl to shreds in front of her mom. Ugh.
I really hate to think of it that way, because it means I didn’t learn much from the shame I felt when I was caught doing so 35 years ago.
There are so many warnings and references in the Bible about how God hates it when we slander our neighbor or hold resentments against one another. How we avoid talking to the person about a problem and instead talk to everyone else who is not involved. In the Christian world we often couch it in a way that makes us seem like we genuinely want to pray for that person but then follow up with a diatribe of poor and unfair behavior we have been the victim of by said person. We say we should love our neighbor but often use hateful language about others, as if we are better than or God loves us more because hey, they are mean and annoying, right?
Lately, I have been thinking of this a lot because I have been catching myself thinking judgmental and intolerant thoughts about not just individuals, but entire people groups, political parties or organizations who do not support my belief system. Somehow I have given myself permission to bash God’s children because I feel like they are bashing me, or what I believe.
I don’t believe in my heart of hearts that this is OK. Yet I engage in it if the conversation pops up or someone I see on the news is spouting something I find ridiculous.
A few years ago I wrote a blog called, “Let’s talk about Trump.” I tell you what; from the sheer number of hits I got, I almost decided to just insert the word “Trump” in every title from then on. There were literally thousands of people reading what I might say about him. Only I didn’t talk about him. I talked about us and how we are called to “keep our own side of the street clean.” How someone else behaves is never an excuse for us to act unloving or unkind. Other people’s good or bad behavior is not my responsibility.
I am responsible for acting like a person filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Regardless of how you or anyone else chooses to act.
I know some of you reading may not share my belief that we are all God’s children and that He loves my enemies and those who disagree with me just as much as he loves me. So this probably all sounds nonsensical to you. I get that. But hopefully you can at the very least embrace the fact that love still wins out over hatefulness, cruel criticism and angry rants about those who hold different views than we do.
Or out-perform us.
Or get the job we wanted.
Or irritate us at work or school or at our family functions.
Or vote differently than we do.
Or have kids that seem to be thriving while ours struggle.
Or are in better shape.
Or have better stuff and more money.
Or seem to have the perfect spouse.
Or get the solo parts we audition for 😯.
Before I let any words escape my lips (which originate in my heart) I can pause, scope my surroundings, and remind myself that whatever comes out of my mouth will be heard by the very Being that created whoever I am about to talk about.
God-May my words always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so they benefit anyone who listens. May I avoid gossip, criticism, slander, a judgmental spirit and “godless chatter.” Help me to remember that I am no better than anyone else and that you have granted me endless unconditional love, tolerance, forgiveness and understanding. I want to extend that same grace toward all of your children. I am going to need your help. Please grant me the strength to carry out Your Will and Your Ways. Amen.