Have you seen the memes going around highlighting the difficulty in being Christlike in your response to foolishness? I probably laugh too hard when I see them because it describes me so directly that I cannot deny the likeness. I have had a fly mouth and attitude since elementary school. I attended school in an environment where “flower-child” character traits meant you would get stomped down on the blacktop after lunch if you did not stand up for yourself. After a couple of showdowns and practices in my bedroom mirror, I became pretty proficient at the art of the “comeback”. So, with about 10 solid years of honing those skills on various playgrounds, at parks, in unsupervised classrooms, and in teen clubs, I developed a solid ability to quickly and sharply respond to foolishness.
It was a good tool to have and it served me well for a long time. It helped me avoid plenty of altercations but it also escalated many more situations that could have been avoided. Since it worked for me early on, I continued “popping off” on people when I got to college. The demographics were different and the method did not work as well. I slowly learned what was once an asset had now become a weakness.
I was more focused on having earthly strength rather than Godly strength. I was trying to fight my own battles instead of relying on the word of God. Sadly, I was trying to control things and not living up to who God expected me to be as a Christian.
Over time, I learned that regardless of the stimuli, my response should always reflect the heart of Christ. Let me give you some examples of reasons people “pop off”; betrayal by a friend, disappointments at work, a stranger’s disrespect, the death of a loved one, and so on and so on. Most of us would agree that our emotions would run high. Nevertheless, focusing on peace rather than discord will lessen the negativity of the experience, overall. Also where there is less damage, the healing occurs quicker. If you rage or destroy in response to a negative stimulus, you will cause more damage to everyone involved. More damage = more healing time.
So, that “smart mouth” skill is still within me and I have to fight “not” to exercise it quite frequently. Sometimes I am successful, sometimes I am not. When I am not successful, I know I have failed God.
Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”. It takes a while to fully absorb and embrace this especially when you’ve fooled yourself into thinking your worldly method of handling discord has addressed the problem. When we selfishly focus on our own goals instead of God’s goals, we are already wrong. God wants us to be a witness to His goodness. Even in the midst of difficulty, we can stand firm and address issues without being destructive.
So, mind your words and your tone. Focus on peace and healing. Focus on God. As for me, I will do the same.