“Let your conversation be always full of grace…” Colossians 4:6
Ouch! Can I just tell you? My heart is still throbbing from the conviction this verse brought to my heart this morning, and a story comes to mind, one that a young college friend of mine shared a few summers ago.
As a high school senior, my friend had made a terrible mistake and sat on the bed in her room waiting for her parents to come in and talk to her about it. Angry, this young lady’s parents excused themselves to their bedroom to discuss punishment, but the conversation quickly turned. To ease the tension of the moment and lower their collective blood pressure, they began to make private jokes at her expense as only parents know how to do. My friend began to fume.
How did she know?
“I can hear you!” she informed her parents from the foot of her own bed.
Silence. “You can hear us?” they asked, laughing nervously.
Whispers. “How much did you hear?” her mother asked.
More whispers. More laughter. “For how long?” her dad asked.
“My whole life!”
Okay, so, all kinds of thoughts went through my head when I heard this story, and the very first thing I did when we got home from camp was to have my husband stand in our room and talk at different volumes while I listened from each of the kids’ rooms. Thankfully, we’re good.
Or are we?
My daughter is a sweet girl. Truly. A more loyal friend you’ll never find, no matter what you do to hurt or offend her. She is a model of forgiveness and unconditional friendship, so it surprised me to hear her say recently something rather critical and unforgiving about someone our family loves dearly.
Not sure how to respond, as what she said was true enough, in my opinion, I sat mute, wondering what had turned her thoughts and then her words that direction. With a start, I realized it was me, and my face began to burn.
I didn’t know she was listening.
I hadn’t actually spoken the words that she used, but I had expressed the attitude behind them in numerous conversations with my husband in recent months. In his patient way, he had tried to correct my thinking, but, in my mind, I wasn’t doing anything wrong. Just keepin’ it real, you know?
Yeah. Real ugly!
The Bible tells us in Romans 12:2 that followers of Christ are not supposed to do what the world does. That means that it’s not okay for us to slander or gossip, no matter how true our words seem to us. Nope, our job is to heap on grace, to treat others better than they deserve, even—perhaps, especially—in the way we discuss them, not only for their benefit, but also for the benefit of those who listen (Ephesians 4:29). This includes both what we do say and what we don’t say, a difficult concept to swallow for someone who likes to talk.
“But isn’t that lying?” Satan whispers to me. “God says to train up your child in the way they should go. Surely there’s no better way to do that than to point out the faults of others! You’ve got to paint the whole picture, Angela. Tell it like it is.”
My answer? It’s not lying if I do what the rest of Romans 12:2 tells me to do and allow God to renew my mind. See, when I put aside personal opinion and bias, put on God’s glasses, and view others through the lenses of mercy and grace, meanies, glory hounds, and lazy bums become people just like me—not that they weren’t already!—broken, but loved, with unlimited potential to impact the Kingdom and bring glory to the Heavenly Father I love.
I begin to look for the good in them, and, even when I can’t find it, I see God’s hand at work, using all things together for my good and His glory (Romans 8:28), shaping and maturing me through my interaction both with those who seek to please Him and those who don’t.
My conversational patterns begin to change as I speak the Truth that I am only then able to see. “Keeping it real” becomes less about pointing out other’s faults and more about the Gospel, the availability of forgiveness to all, and freedom from sin made possible through Jesus Christ, whether or not the person in question happens to be taking advantage of that freedom. “Painting the whole picture” becomes less about digging up skeletons and more about God’s ability to redeem, change, and grow a person into what they were created to be, no matter where they happen to be in the process.
Let’s face it. The contents of a critical heart are just as infectious as virus vomit, maybe more so—Sorry! That made me gag, too, but isn’t that the point?—and I, for one, don’t want to make the people around me sick. So, today, I’m asking God to renew my mind, to get in there and rewire my hard drive, so to speak, so the words I speak will please Him, my conversation will be full of grace, and listening ears will benefit, those I know about and those I don’t. Join me?