All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. James 3: 7-12
Saturday, April 9, 2011
I'm So Sorry
Dear Friends, Family, Acquaintances, and people I don't even know:
I owe you an apology. It's long overdue.
I'm sorry for the way I've talked about you. Chances are, if you are in my close circle of friends or family, I've cast judgement on some decision you've made in the past couple of weeks, and I've probably shared that commentary with my husband in some other circle of friends of which you are not a part. That way, it won't get back to you.
You may have frustrated me recently, but you wouldn't have known it. I would have just smiled and then mouthed off about you either to God, to myself, or to some other friend who won't tell you. Rather than going to you and sharing how I feel, I'd rather just keep the frustration inside because I'm too cowardly to talk to you and be transparent. Rather than believing the best about you when do something upsetting, I am suspicious of your character. Maybe I've shown you that I'm slightly upset by being passive-aggressive, but I probably would deny that there was a problem even if you asked.
If you are a friend from the past or an acquaintance, I pass judgement on you, too. I look at your pictures on Facebook or hear stories through the grapevine and offer a commentary to my close friends about how stupid you are or how I would have done things differently, using your failures to elevate myself and prove to others that I'm better than you.
I've probably told your secret to someone, even if it was just my husband or my mom. Even though my better judgement tells me to keep my mouth shut, I ignore it more often than not. If I haven't told your secrets, it's not because I am a faithful friend, it's probably just because over time, I forgot what you told me in the first place.
To those of you I don't know, I read the news and I pass judgement on you and I talk about your incompetence. I look at the beggar on the street and first assume that he probably deserved to be where he was. I maybe even use my theology to justify what I'm saying and feeling. Maybe there's truth to what I'm saying about you, and maybe there would even be value to speaking that truth in certain contexts, but I mostly speak these "truths" with the hope that people will think I'm articulate, smart, or witty. I use your demise for my own gain.
Of course, I usually pass all of this off as venting or sharing prayer requests or philosophizing. That's how I live with myself every day. I've created a carefully woven paradigm that allows for me to perpetuate the way I speak about you and feel minimal conviction that how I speak is even wrong in the first place.
I just want you to know that I'm sorry. Not only am I sorry, but I am ready to strip my mind and heart of this way of living and thinking and speaking.
I wish I could say that I am turning a new leaf and that is that, but the truth is, I will revert back to my old paradigm. I will talk about you again behind your back. I will cast judgement on your decisions. I will use your own mistakes and failures to elevate myself even if it means dragging your name through the mud. I'm pretty clever and have learned by now how to make sure that none of what I say gets back to you, and I'm too much of a coward to admit to you when I do mess up.
But I am trying.
So when we're sitting together over a latte or talking over Skype or chatting after church in a big group of friends, and when I begin to revert to this way of speaking, just gently nudge me and remind me of what it is that I'm REALLY doing. I'm not just sharing the latest news; I'm not just sharing genuine heartfelt concern for others; I'm not just venting; I'm casting the first stone; I'm removing the piece of sawdust from the eyes of my friends before I remove the plank from my own eye.
And it may be hard for you to remind me. It may feel awkward. You may be younger than me and it may feel strange to bring this to my attention. God forbid, you may be interested in hearing this nugget of information that I'm about to share with you and ready to proverbially stone the person with me. But think about the wellbeing of the people that I'm about to slay with my words, and remind me of my potential sin for their sake. Because tomorrow you may be the person that I target with harsh words, and you'd want want the person listening to me to stop me before I even begin.
Thanks for listening.