I was a police officer for a long time as many readers of mine know. During that time, I came up for promotion three times. I was passed over twice. The first time you get passed over for promotion it’s not really a big deal. At least it wasn’t to me. I mean, I had only been policing for about 4 years and didn’t really expect it.
The second time was different though. I had been on the job for around 6 years and felt like I was ready. Looking back on it now I can laugh about my youthful arrogance in assuming I’d be ready for that kind of responsibility. But, I got passed over again. This time I was upset. I felt like I’d earned it and was pretty much a badass of a cop. I mean, I was chasing bad guys, locking ‘em up; I was a SWAT guy (we called it SRT) and I had a college degree. I thought I was pretty cool so I was pretty mad when I got passed over again.
And I let my displeasure be known.
My captain called me in his office one day. He asked, “Know why you got passed over again?” I think I knew but didn’t really wanna hear it or accept it so I said, “No.” He kinda gave me that look.
You know, the look that says ‘Stop being stupid,’ and he said, “Your mouth dude. You shoot your mouth off too much. There’s a way to say what you wanna say.”
I was like ‘whatever.’
Fast forward now to my 40s.
I am now a manager for a fitness company, I’ve owned a gym, attempted to plant a church and several other things. I’m not really sure I’ve learned my lesson yet in keeping my pie hole shut.
I’ve recently had a series of confrontations with a young man that works for me. I tend to be a straight shooter when I speak. There are few frills; I just kinda come straight at you with what I say. With most men around my age or older this seems to be okay. With the younger generation, this kinda works and kinda doesn’t. So in this conflict with my employee, I’ve been really aggressive.
My boss was talking with me about it the other day. He said something to me about this conflict that made me really do some hard thinking and praying and even repenting. He said something like this:
It matters less what you say than how you say it.
Now look, I know this. This has been said to me more times than I can count over the years, mostly ‘cause I tend to be a bull in a china shop most of the time. But this made me think and reflect on how Jesus interacted with people.
There was one particular thing that Jesus said that the Spirit brought to my mind in this situation. We find it in Matthew’s gospel in chapter 12, verses 33-37.
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers: How can you speak good,when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Now I’m not going to get into an exegetical exercise here and talk too much about context and such, but rather take these words at face value. Jesus was pretty clear here.
Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
You will give an account for every careless word spoken.
I mean, I don’t see a way around this. When I say things that are harsh and unkind, that is the abundance of my heart speaking. My attitude, even in confrontation, even if I’m right, matters. My words and how I use them matter because what I say and how I say it says more about me than about the person I’m confronting.
Don’t misunderstand. Jesus had some harsh words for some people. But His harshness was reserved for unrepentant religious control freaks whose god was their power and position. But when Jesus dealt with others, He was kind in His speech. His words may have cut but His delivery did not.
Words have meaning and Jesus understood that. More than the words used is the heart behind the words.
Here’s my problem and maybe it’s yours as well:
My heart is dark without Jesus. Without Him, the abundance of my heart is pure evil.
But thanks be to God for His great mercy! Because of Jesus, because I am in Him and the Spirit lives in me and is sanctifying me, I can speak the truth in love and not be harsh or unkind. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t always succeed in that.
But God has accomplished His salvation in my life and He continues to accomplish His purposes and sanctification in my heart.
Be encouraged, friends, that God will accomplish what He has set out to in your heart. He cannot fail to sanctify you. He will help you do as Paul commands us in Colossians 4:6,
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
May God be glorified in our speech.
Soli Deo Gloria!