I have been feeling convicted lately about the things that I say about other people when they are not around. I had a few friends growing up that were exceptionally good about not speaking negatively about anyone, no matter who they were. I always marveled at those individuals. “C’mon, you can’t possibly think everyone is great,” I thought. I went back and forth between thinking they were inclined to a higher level of morality and restraint, and thinking they were uptight prudes. It bothered me that they wouldn’t join me in bashing the latest person who was at the receiving end of my wrath or annoyance.
Lately, more than ever, I have begun to see the terrible results of that. I had the privilege of being on the receiving end of it for once (or I was just made aware of it this time around), and it sucked. Big time. But as quickly as my anger and indignance began to swell, the Lord checked me. “How many times have you done this and it has gone unnoticed, Hilary?” I really wanted to ignore that voice and shout BETRAYAL! TREACHERY! from the rooftops, but I had to admit it. I was so guilty. And I was seeing the bitter fruit of it firsthand.
What if everyone I had ever spoken about in my life was gathered into a room, and had the chance to listen to a playback of my words about them? There would be some positive moments for sure, but overall I would likely be horrified and ashamed.
I realized something then- it’s not about just restraining my tongue. It’s about retraining my heart. “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). Like anything else, it’s a heart issue. How am I perceiving these individuals in my life? Am I seeing them through God’s eyes, with His love and compassion? Am I processing their behavior through my own selfish expectations and perceptions, or through His lens of understanding and forgiveness? Am I trying to find the best in them?
So now, when I find myself in a conversation where I am tempted to speak negatively about someone, I immediately picture that person standing in front of me. What would they need to hear in that moment? What is God trying to say to them? I hope I can channel that, instead of my personal sinfulness. Even if I feel that they truly need to hear something “negative” from me, such as a frustration or personal issue, I should bring it to them in love, and in person. From here on out, I’ll be doing more than watching my mouth- I will work on diligently guarding my heart.
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