More Than Just Not Swearing

~~You know, some of the things we say are just stupid. How’s that for an opening line? I was browsing Pinterest recently when I came across a meme about what an adventure it is to live in this vast world. Someone commented about people who get bored. Then someone else commented, and finally one well-meaning woman posted, “I am never bored. Only boring people get bored.”

Well then. Isn’t she just all that and a bag of chips? And aren’t the rest of us – us lowly peasant types who occasionally get bored – just so much… less

I know that she didn’t mean to come across as condescending, superior, arrogant, self-righteous and judgmental, but she did. And it worked my last nerve. So I told her that her cliché was boring. I’m not proud of it, but I did.

You know what’s funny? She didn’t mean to be unkind. She was just thoughtless and casual about her remark. I, on the other hand, plotted an ill-intentioned response to her thoughtless comment and I meant to insult her into some kind of repentant humility. What’s funny is how we reap what we sow. Hang with me here for a bit while I circumnavigate my point.

Besides being mean-spirited and sharp-tongued (and let’s not forget, sarcastic)…I also swear. It’s an ugly habit left over from the days when I lived in the gutter. I have always had a good vocabulary, and in this genre in particular I am a master. When I am peeved, irritated or angry those words rise to the top like cream on milk (along with the sarcasm). It worries me terribly for my nursing home days when all that’s left is what’s natural. These are the things that make me especially surprised that God also uses my words to bless others (I hope) and in that I find a profound lesson: it is the effect of the words – the intentioned purpose behind them – that should concern us most, not the words themselves.

Early in my Christian experience I memorized Ephesians 4:29… “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Do you know that in this verse, the word “unwholesome” is also the word the original readers would have used to describe rotten fruit? Paul is saying that we should not go around spitting rotten fruit out of our mouth. It’s disgusting!

I have always used this verse like a whip on my back to remind me that swearing does not honor the Lord (it’s like telling the zebra to stop being striped!) But I’m beginning to understand through the careless words of others and my own vitriol in response, that God means something more here than just not swearing. My words, our words, are not to be used casually, and simply for the pleasure of giving vent to our own thoughts, rather they are to have two specific purposes: building up and benefiting others, with a focus on their needs.

We live in a sound-byte world that goes past us faster than a fleeting thought. We are facebook post shallow and Pinterest pointed. If it sounds good…we say it. Or copy it. Or circulate it. But we rarely take time to test those thoughts before we present them to the world as our truth. But folks, words matter. What comes out of our mouths (or post on our social media) reflects what’s lurking in our hearts. And it’s usually something self-centered, self-interested, self-seeking and self-absorbed.

Let’s return to our random pinner and her thought about boring people. The part of her comment that sparked such an ugly response in me was that she gave not one blessed thought for the fact that her words represent actual people. I wonder if she ever considered how fascinating a 90-year-old woman is even though she’s bedridden in a nursing home with no one to talk to and is bored out of her mind. I wonder if she gave any thought to a mom sitting by her preemie in the NICU with absolutely nothing to do but be there and stare out a window? I wonder if she thinks a recently disabled vet is boring because he’s bored from suddenly being confined to a wheelchair. No. I’m sure she did not think of any of those people. She thought only of herself, and nearly broke her arm reaching around to pat herself on the back for not being one of them: those boring people. But I did the same thing. And I meant to. Both of us were completely self-absorbed and focused only on expressing our own feelings.  And when God confronted me with the truth of my sin, I reaped the humility (humiliation!) that I had intended her to feel. (Think Adam and Eve…Eve was tricked, but Adam knew what he was doing!! We know how that turned out!) I did confess pretty rapidly, and this post is part of my repentance. If God can not redeem my sin by saving some from it, then it serves no purpose, and that is more painful than having done it to start with. I digress…

Words. Words matter. And not just our words but our intentions in using them. There should be only two: build up and benefit. It’s an easy mantra…build up and benefit, build up and benefit…but it is behavior that begins with a change of heart, and by taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ. Every word we say (write, copy, circulate) begins in our hearts and is formulated in our minds. We have to test those words against real truth before we let them loose on the world. Let’s endeavor, you and I, to be more thoughtful and purposeful with our words. Let’s spend a bit more time in The Word and fill our hearts with those words so that our words will be His words. Let’s test what we think, put a finger over our lips (literally if necessary), run our random thoughts past Him first and speak only after we’ve carefully considered our intentions and our calling to build others up according to their needs and to benefit whoever's listening. It’s far less painful than having to eat our words later – especially if they were rotten.  

I ask for your prayers in this matter as it is a stronghold in my life…like gluttony…and it needs to be Mastered before it devours me. I would ask you to pray for foresight rather than hindsight if you don’t mind; the taste of my own words grows stale after eating so many of them.