I am not a sailor, and having a boat is nowhere on my radar. Yet, I find myself in some choppy waters from time to time. It’s not that I want to be here. It’s just that I have a knack for landing in this precarious place and I have no one else to blame but myself.
It all has to do with that little organ in our mouths. The one by which we speak, and eat, and whistle. It is by this that we get ourselves into conundrums of all kinds.
Proverbs 18:21 says that “The tongue has the power of life and death…” Boy oh boy, it sure does.
Like most people, I am a work in progress. I think I do a fairly good job of keeping that little rudder on course. I can steer pretty well in calm waters, but have an ill wind kick up, and how easily the slightest deviation — an unkind word spoken — can cause me to head right into a storm.
In short, I screw up and say things that I wish I could take back. Can I get a witness?!
Have you ever been sea sick? All you can do is focus on the horizon and count the seconds till you get back to shore. Your stomach and head feel like they are swimming in a fog of anguish.
It is the same kind of sickness we get when we hurt someone’s feelings. It consumes you. You want desperately to make it right, to get your relationship back on an even keel. It’s not always so simple to do.
At times like these, I berate myself, “How could I be so stupid?” I wonder what would possess me to be unkind.
If I were to let my ego do the answering, I could come up with a few explanations and reasons. Perhaps this person has been insensitive or uncaring towards me. There have been plenty of times where it is easy to justify my words or actions.
That’s when we throw our righteousness overboard. That’s when we let the enemy rule our hearts and heads. That’s when we open the portal to trouble.
What I know for sure, is that no matter what someone does to us, we have a choice. Are we going to respond with a tit for tat mentally, enjoying the rush of having a momentary vindication? Or, are we going to lower the sails, and let the moment pass, so that we don’t get off course.
Sometimes the damage caused by our tongues is irreparable. It is that powerful.
Recently, I chose to go headlong into the wind of adversity with a person that I care about. I could have measured my words, casting out only a line or two that would have sufficed. Instead, out came a whopper of needless snark that did nothing to fix my situation. I blew a hole in the bottom of my boat and I was sinking fast in a sea of regret.
By most standards, what I said seems pretty innocuous. I know people would probably even cheer at my wittiness. I bet I could have even gotten a few “amens” from the galley.
The problem is, God is not “people.” He’s God. And what I did only widened the breach between two individuals who are stranded in an ocean of hurt feelings. What I said caused shame, not peace.
Not only did I hurt someone that I love, but I’m the one who came out feeling gutted.
When we are frustrated, wounded, or depleted in some way, we are in the danger zone. This is where the enemy does his best work. We want to get our points across. We want our feelings to be taken into consideration. When provoked, we just don’t care that we wound someone else.
We all float around in life with brokenness.
God would have us take a deep breath. If counting to ten doesn’t work, consider how many times He has given us grace when we needed it. How times we have been forgiven when we messed up. How often He calls us to come to Him, to believe in Him, even to walk on water to reach Him so that He can show us His unconditional love.
And that’s what we are supposed to do to others. Even when it’s hard.
When God is our lighthouse, he will keep us heading in the right direction. If we keep our eyes on Him, we will choose His light to lead us through the storms we run into, no matter how big or small they are.
In my situation, the Lord convicted me. I apologized to this individual by text (yes, even texting has a tongue.) And though I know it will take a little time, my repentance will steer us back into relationship and we will one day be sailing full-steam ahead again.
Be careful with your tongue. Say you’re sorry. Be anchored in what you know He would have you say. Have grace.
You’re going to mess up sometimes. We all do. But the right words spoken in love will turn your ship around.