by Shirley Brosius
When there are many words, wrongdoing is unavoidable, but one who restrains his lips is wise. Proverbs 10:19 NASB
I had no idea which button I accidentally pressed when a snowstorm blew across my television screen. Input, perhaps? Nope. Clicking on it changed nothing. After 15 minutes of trying to restore the picture, I called technical support. A very nice man assured me he would help. He even asked how my day was going up until I found myself in this predicament. I assured him it had been going just fine. Until. Now.
The man suggested I try this/try that. Turn off/turn on. Disconnect this/reconnect that. Nothing worked. I shed the robe I wore over my pajamas. We continued to work on the problem—him, giving directions in a soothing, patient voice. Me, following his prompts, more agitated by the moment and finally calling my husband to connect/disconnect, do this/do that.
Back and forth. We chatted for 15 minutes or so. I then did something that lighted the modem box, and I knew we were onto something good. This kind, gentle man finally led me through steps that restored my television picture—just in time for a movie I wanted to watch.
Isn’t that how it is with life? One split-second misstep may take ages to correct. One misspoken word may take long conversations to undo. A spouse irritates you, so you snap back. A child tries your patience, so you yell. A coworker offends you or you offend a coworker. And like my television experience, sometimes we’re not even sure what caused the storm.
Just as I need to be mindful of the buttons I press on the remote, I need to be mindful of what I say. It’s easy to spill words all over myself and others. But the cost of cleanup in time and hurt feelings can be as costly as the cleanup following Hurricane Laura. Better to proceed with caution.
“Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3 NIV). David wrote these words in his desire to do right. He knew his words could encourage or poison. After describing what he hoped to avoid, David continued: “For my eyes are toward You, O God, the Lord; in You I take refuge; do not leave me defenseless” (Psalm 141:8 NASB ). David knew his only hope of guarding his tongue was in keeping his sights on God, who is totally good.
Here’s my advice du jour:
Approach life with prayer: Prepare yourself for the day by praying for God’s direction and His Hand on your life. If an awkward situation looms, ask for wisdom. If you expect challenges from children, spouses or coworkers, ask for a heart filled with love and discernment. Call for God’s help on the spot as needed.
Accept responsibility: Develop a mindset that refuses to allow irritation to rob you of kind responses. If you’ve already said or done the wrong thing, ‘fess up. You meant well, but it didn’t turn out that way. Apologize. Say you’re sorry. Push comes to shove when we fail to accept responsibility for our words and actions. If you meant well, let your good intentions be known and they will be appreciated.
Apply loving concern: Keep your cool. Calmly express concern. Harsh language only muddies the waters. Like the soothing, friendly technical support guy, offer assistance and suggest ways issues might be resolved. While you may not see eye to eye, the other may hear your heart and accept your basic motivation as sincere. If customer service people can be trained to respond to all voices with patience, so can we as moms and dads, sons and daughters, friends and colleagues.
Life’s muddles and puddles will do us and others good if we use them as invitations to draw closer to God and to each other.
This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).
About the author: An author and speaker from Millersburg, Pennsylvania, Shirley Brosius has written Sisterhood of Faith: 365 Life-Changing Stories about Women Who Made a Difference and coauthored Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides. She speaks at women’s events throughout the East as a member of Friends of the Heart, three women who share God’s love through messages, skits and song. Shirley has a daughter waiting in heaven, and she appreciates the help of two married sons and five grandchildren when she calls them for help in a muddle. You can find out more about Shirley at www.shirleybrosius.com or www.shirleybrosius.blogspot.com.
Join the conversation: Have you created a mess with your words? How did you resolve the problem?