So I've spent some time this semester playing get-to-know-you games with myself. The Holy Spirit has really dug around and unearthed things about me that I am ready to face, both gifts and flaws, to reveal me exactly as I am. It's incredible to me that from the eternal godly perspective, I am wiped clean and considered perfect because of Christ, but God loves me so much that He cares about changing me to be more like Him right now, in this temporal life on earth. I'm noticing the pet peeves I've always had and never acknowledged for what they are, so I can be ready to forgive people when they irritate me. I get to see the way my mind dwells on certain things, worrying constantly, or imagining things differently from what they are, so I can take captive of my thoughts from wandering in order to stay grounded here and appreciate what I have. I could go on forever, and this isn't really what I was going to write about, but it's just incredible to really know myself more like the Lord does. I know that this process will really be important when I have to make life decisions, so I encourage you right now to pray that God will introduce you to yourself, the real you! He will take you step by step to clean out dirty closets inside, not dumping your every failure and vice on you at once because He knows we can't handle that, and it'll all be for His glory when we can put sins and flaws behind us one by one to become stronger in Christ!
Whew. Anyways, all that leads to my new understanding of the power of human interaction. It's really incredible how much we just interact with others every day, whether by walking by them, making eye contact, talking to them (from cashiers to best friends), hugging them, laughing with them, Facebook chatting with them, emailing them... every single day. And as I imagine the scope of how much we really spend time just dealing with people, the possibilities for God's glorification are just enormous. How much of a difference can a smile make to someone who is on the edge of hell in their life? What could a kind gesture do to a stranger? How beautiful could words of hope be to someone you've known for years? It's just crazy to think about how people in our lives aren't just extras in a movie about us -- they are thinking, feeling, experiencing, and not any less than you or me. We're really all very alike.
I could talk about this too for hours and hours. In fact, this isn't even what I was going to talk about either, haha. Another context! Don't you love it?
The very specific thing that I am considering at this moment is how carefully we must tread in when we relate with people. We do it so automatically, reacting more than responding, and don't take the time to measure our words or search our hearts.
"Everyone lies to their neighbor; they flatter with their lips but harbor deception in their hearts. May the LORD silence all flattering lips and every boastful tongue— those who say, 'By our tongues we will prevail; our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?'” Psalm 12:2-4
Yes, this talks about everyone, even the holiest of holy Christian people. I don't think we realize how all-encompassing deception and flattery really are, how deeply they go. Pretending to care about other people when we don't really feel like listening to them, laying on kindness in order to be liked or obtain something (yep, going out of your ordinary way for attractive guys counts!), and many other things that are second nature to us are really deception. The lie is that we profess to be different from the inside out, loving neighbors as ourselves and giving without expectation of receiving anything in return, and yet on the inside our attitude doesn't match many times. This scripture even points out that the issue is really in our hearts, that we still have deeply rooted desires to gain attention and admiration from some people and not to be bothered by people that we don't think are so important. Our level of politeness, or how genuinely engaged we are in what people are saying, often correlates more with getting something out of our interactions with people.
Speech has a gigantic impact on people's lives, and we must approach it with respect. We are not masters of our tongues; they sometimes speak directly from a selfish corner of the heart without giving our spiritual self a chance to intervene and stop it. I think believers really need to step back and truly consider what is edifying, and what is not, period. What words build up others and bring glory to the Lord?
For example, I'm kind of over people who jokingly get on your case about something that isn't your fault. This has always really made me mad -- I think I just have a sensitivity to it that other people might not -- but I really can't stand it. I know that friends are kidding when they say things (oftentimes over and over again) like, "Gosh, Lara! Why did you make me come here? This is the worst thing ever!" when something goes wrong completely apart from my control. I take it personally! It's not funny at all and it gets on my nerves. I'm not a scapegoat! This is a way that other people have no idea that they are pushing me to frustration and the desire to back away from them. And that's really the thing -- we don't mean to do stuff like this, but it's because we don't often take a moment to consider if even our sense of humor is edifying. Even if a joke is slightly at someone's expense, you'd better know that person well! (Proverbs 26:18-19 is a scripture that a lot of my friends throw around about sarcasm, use it well.)
Just observations we make aloud can tear down rather than build up. A lot of people, usually clueless guys, have told me I look tired! In the early afternoon, on days where I am perfectly well-groomed and have had my coffee and am just going about my business. I get it! I have genetic circles under my eyes! Why in the world do you need to tell me that?
I don't mean to sound like a big complainer, I'm just giving personal examples of ways where I am definitely thin-skinned, which is a problem where I am quicker to accuse than forgive, but where I am not built up by people's interactions with me. Everyone has a million they could probably think of right now, both things that hurt their feelings or things that they know they do that probably bring others grief and frustration.
What's the prescription, then?
"So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. [...] the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." Galatians 5:16-23
Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you and reveal to you ways that you must take control of your words and not let them speak on their own on your behalf. When He fills us with His presence, we have these fruits of the Spirit, all of which will aid that deep heart issue that causes the most hurt in our relationships and interactions. If there is genuine love within you, then good will pour out naturally in what you say!
In a practical sense, really take care to think before speaking, asking the Spirit to join you in your conversations and indicate to you how you can be a builder, encourager, and deliverer of good news, pointing to Christ with every sentence. Truly elevate others' desire to be listened to and cared for above your desire to zone out. Don't let the desire to impress people rule you, but the belief that the Lord sees what others don't and rejoices over you letting Him pour His love through you like a water fountain.
The Kingdom of God is nearing, and we can give little pieces of heaven to others in what we say.