I failed at being a good sister last week!
My Sis called with some amazing news and I proceeded to ask a series of questions that squashed her enthusiasm. I wasn’t trying to be negative but I was trying to challenge her to think beyond her immediate emotions.
It all worked out and in the end, she thanked me for my feeble attempt. But in retrospect, I could have approached the situation with a little more grace and a greater desire to see the world through her eyes.
I find that I need more of both, grace and compassion, as I navigate today’s complicated world. Fear and anxiety make people behave in ways they normally would never consider and say things they immediately regret.
I recently saw a video clip of a woman shopping in her local grocery store. She was well dressed, groceries in hand, casually, calmly making her way up and down the aisles. Until one of the store clerks approached her and reminded her, she had to wear a mask. At that moment, she LOST it! All rational behavior flew out the window along with civil speech.
Irrational behavior and thoughtless words can be seen in every walk of life, across all social groups, in our churches, and throughout every age range. Whether the driving force is the pandemic, racial unrest, our current political climate, or the uncertainty in the world, we all can be pushed to the edge where we slide into an outburst or say something hurtful that is hard to retract.
If you’ve ever found yourself wishing you could take it back – take back the outburst, reclaim the hasty words, I have three suggestions for you to consider.
Be Gracious and Sensitive
I recently had an opportunity to watch an interaction between a young woman and what appeared to be her mentor. The young woman was distraught, life had gotten complicated, and she was having difficulty navigating the situation. Her mentor sat directly across from her, cell phone in hand. As the young woman began to explain her situation, the older woman began her lecture. The young woman tried to explain but the mentor continued to control the conversation. About 15 minutes into the tirade, the mentor’s phone chimed. She excused herself to take the call. The young woman wiped her tears, grabbed her bag, and walked out the door.
Colossians 4:5-6 directs us to,
5 … Be wise in all your contacts… 6 Let your conversation be gracious as well as sensible, for then you will have the right answer for everyone.
The Living Bible (TLB)
We are to be gracious and sensible with our words. This requires us to be willing to listen, stop focusing on our well-rehearsed responses, put aside our own needs, and be willing to focus our attention, our hearts on the other person.
Speak Truth in Love
I have an acquaintance that loves to send emotionally charged emails and text messages. He encourages a response, allowing him to keep the conversation brewing. After receiving several of these messages, I had to let him know that I’m not reading the materials. It was a hard message to deliver but I also didn’t want him to continue to take hours composing the commentaries knowing I no longer wanted to read them.
We can and should speak the truth in love, as uncomfortable as that may feel. It is not being confrontational; we all need people to speak into our lives – graciously, patiently, while seeking to understand our motivations and goals.
Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
Ephesians 4:15, New International Version (NIV)
Control Your Responses
When my Sis shared her news. I was not considering her perspective or her overall goals. In fact, I never asked her about either. I should have controlled my response, giving her time to paint the picture and after careful reflection share my thoughts. I allowed my own emotions to carry me to a place of judgment – a poor communication tool.
Proverbs 18:13 drives home this point,
Answering before listening is both stupid and rude.
The Message (MSG)
A wise woman once told me, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” Applying this adage to our conversations with others, talk to others the way you want them to talk to you.
If we strive to practice these simple suggestions, we will better reflect the way Jesus interacts with us. And there is no better interaction strategy we can adopt than His.
Let love direct.
Take time to see.