I was very hurt that someone I loved would speak so carelessly about someone else I happen to love. I didn’t know how to react. Should I lash back and point out a few not nice things about the offender in defense of my friend, or just let it go?
As I was contemplating my best choice of action, nursing this outrage I felt, I heard Jesus whisper to me, “How do you think I feel when you tear down one of my friends?”
I knew full well what He meant. I often struggle with having a critical and judgmental spirit towards those I disagree with. When I love someone, I love them hard. But watch out if you and I don’t see eye to eye!
I am not proud of this attitude. I know I should not be wearing it at all. So when Jesus whispered to me that day, I knew I had to do something about it. And thankfully, He was ready to help me out.
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24
The first thing I had to do was look at my attitude. Why did I feel it was okay to judge and criticize others just because I didn’t happen to like what they were doing? I realized it came from an attitude of superiority. Or, to be more accurate, an attitude of inferiority that wanted to compensate by feeling superior over others.
When I judge others, I am basically telling myself I am better than them. That I would never do the things they are doing. I want to feel good about my own actions, so I compare myself to others in hopes to find something, anything, I am better at.
My attitude very much emulates that of Babylon’s described in Isaiah 47:8: “You have trusted in your wickedness and have said, ‘No one sees me.’ Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, ‘I am, and there is none besides me.’”
I have to be renewed in my mind. To stop thinking of things in terms of me, and instead think of them in terms of Him.
There is only one “I Am”. And it’s certainly not me.
Next, I had to look at what my attitude looked like coming out of my mouth.
It’s one thing for me to think something, but quite another to actually verbalize it. Having been on the receiving end of words that hurt more times than I care to remember, you would think I would be more sensitive in this area. Unfortunately I am one of those who speaks and then thinks.
I need a filter for my mouth.
Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3
I first needed to work on stopping and thinking before I speak, and then determine if the words I wanted to say were good for building up or merely meant to tear down to make me look good.
On my own, I can’t do this. I don’t even necessarily want to do it at times. But I decided that if I was truly going to take to heart what God was trying to tell me, that I was going to need His help to get it done. So I prayed for that mouth guard. I prayed for huge, hulking brutes with the biggest, thickest, sharpest swords to cross over my mouth and block any unwholesome talk trying to come out. Brutes willing to work a little overtime, I might add!
Lastly, I needed to look at my heart.
For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Matthew 12:34
In my quest to glorify myself, I had forgotten it was my purpose to glorify God. You know, that whole “It’s not about you, “thing (thank you Rick Warren!).
As I was studying, one thing kept jumping out at me.
I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart. Psalm 9:1 (emphasis mine)
A funny thing happens when you fill your heart with praise for the One who rightly deserves it.
There isn’t room for anything else.
If you don’t believe me try this: Sometime in the next week, when you are tired and grumpy and just want to complain, when you least feel like doing so, start praising God and see what happens.
Your heart will change. Your attitude will change. And those words that you wanted to throw out at the first unsuspecting person who dared crossed your path will suddenly dissolve away.
I can’t pretend that I have this perfected. I don’t. Just the other day I chose to use my words against someone, even though my mouth guards were working overtime to stop me. I am a work in progress. But with God’s grace, I will get there. I will fill my heart and mind with praise until they overflow out of my mouth.
And the best news of all…
Jesus can teach us how to speak kindly of others because that’s the way He talks about us. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Romans 8:34
Isn’t it great to know He’s talking good about us? Let’s do the same for each other too.