A Devotional By Donna Tobin Smith
It was Sunday morning and my husband and I were getting ready for church when I heard him call me to the television. “They’re showing a girdle on this shopping show. You’ll probably want to see this.”
Did he say “girdle”? For a split second, I fought the urge to run to the kitchen and fetch my frying pan. I glanced down at the skirt that I was wearing. Surely he wasn’t suggesting what it sounded like he was suggesting. Surely after 37 years of marriage he knew better than that.
The truth was, he did know better. The problem was, after all these years, I should have known better myself. He would never hurt my feelings on purpose. But sometimes, I didn’t hear him right. And sometimes, even when it wasn’t on purpose, he didn’t say things right.
I had noticed the same thing several times that week. It had happened at school. It had happened at church. It had happened at my sister’s house. My brother and I had gotten into a lively discussion about a “he said, she said” issue. I was adamant that the “she” side of the issue was right. He insisted that it really didn’t matter what the “she” side of the issue was, because the “he” side of this particular issue had the final say in the matter anyway.
It was only after I arrived home that night and started thinking about our conversation did I realize that I had fallen into the tangled web of miscommunication. Since it certainly wasn’t the first time I had noticed people having trouble communicating appropriately that week, I had even prepared a lesson for my Sunday school class at church about how important it is for Christians to communicate in a Christian way. I was pretty sure that “bossy big sister” was not on the “Nice Christian Communication Checklist” that I had planned to discuss in class.
Unfortunately, I had heard people who claimed to be Christians say some pretty un-Christian things. My brother assured me that my bossy tone had not hurt his feelings. In fact, he admitted, he had teased me just to see if he could aggravate me. It had obviously worked because I had taken my little brother’s bait and bit; hook, line, and sinker.
In spite of the bad taste it left in my mouth, our conversation had been mild compared to other conversations I had heard earlier in the week. Among hateful, unnecessary comments, I had also heard sarcasm, profanity, rumors, gossip, slander, angry outbursts, complaints, resentment, bitterness, negativity, and bold-faced lies. Whew! And where were the Christians? Behind every single word, that’s where.
It is obviously not a new problem. The third chapter of the book of James addresses our unbridled tongues.
“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.” (James 3:9-10)
That’s right, Brother, this should not be. Everything I say, whether it is to a sister or a brother, a colleague, a student, or a friend, should reflect the fruit of the spirit that lives in me; fruit like gentleness, faithfulness, kindness and self-control. (Colossians 5)
I haven’t changed my mind on the “he-she” issue that my brother and I discussed at my sister’s house the other night. But I’m glad the Lord still convicts me of how I express my opinion to others.
I hope He always will.