I learned a great, painful lesson several years ago about being quiet. About keeping my opinions to myself. About always choosing a kind word over a critical one.
I wrote a critical note about one of the ministers at my church. Yes, I wrote a mean note in church and passed it to my husband. When I should’ve been listening to the sermon and preparing my heart for what God wanted to say to me, I was busy writing a hasty message of criticism to pass to Chad. Not only was I allowing my own mind and heart to be distracted, I was actively distracting my own husband with my unkind words and my ungodly attitude. He read the note, tucked it into his Bible, the sermon went on, church ended, and I never thought about it again.
Until someone found it. It had fallen out of Chad’s Bible, and whoever came upon it took it straight to the minister I had written about. It wasn’t difficult for anyone, given the context of what I had written, to determine that the note had been written by me.
I was humiliated.
It took me several days of extremely humbling prayer to get up the courage to approach this minister–my friend–and apologize for my horrible mistake. He was so kind and gracious and Christ-like in his response. As far as I know, he never held it against me. He continued to be encouraging, nice, and just basically seemed to be a fan of mine. How he accomplished that, I don’t know. I can only assume that he was allowing the Holy Spirit and the grace of God to shine through him. To this day, I admire him for his response to my extremely stupid and sinful actions.
So, years have passed. I have matured. I’ve grown in my faith. Yet, I am still fighting against that same sinful tendency to open my mouth and cause problems. Why does my unwise, critical speech continue to live in my life? When I want to kill it off? When I want to strangle my own desire to speak when I should be quiet?
I’m not just causing pain in my friends when I say what is not gracious and loving. I’m causing extreme pain in my own heart and spirit. I spend sleepless nights regretting what has come out of my mouth. I waste precious brain space remembering all of my spoken mistakes. I just wish that I could achieve that wisdom that I so desire. I wish that I could discern what is good and constructive and kind and helpful and what is mean and destructive and biting and hurtful.
But, you know what? Sometimes I can tell. I can tell before it comes out of my mouth. And I say it anyway.
This is how my sin nature continues to control me, even while I have been freed by God’s love and can be controlled by the Holy Spirit. Because I choose to do what is wrong. And this is not because “the devil made me do it.” It’s because I choose to do it. Because it’s what my flesh desires in the moment. And then my spirit grieves and grieves and grieves.
I pray that I will grow. That I will break free from this need to be heard, even when I shouldn’t be. Being wrong hurts. Hurting someone I care about is excruciating. I bring this punishing weight upon myself. Why do I do it? When will I stop struggling?
Lord, make me like you.