Whenever somebody is working really hard to make a solid argument on an issue they’re passionate about, it’s easy to get frustrated. I always advise against trying to turn the argument around with “I’m rubber and you’re glue.”
“Says you” doesn’t really do much for a person’s believability either. And anytime I’m trying to defuse a heated discussion, I try to remember that “I know you are but what am I” is not the best way to go either.
But I admit it. There are people in life and ministry who just seem to know exactly what to say to bug me to the core. My response? I might opt for “takes one to know one” except that I would be insulting myself at the same time—and that seems counterproductive.
Using words as a weapon is always counterproductive. I wish I could say I’ve never done it. But it doesn’t take long to figure out that words aren’t rubber—they don’t bounce. They can wound. And when we’re bent on wounding, we miss a big opportunity to grow in character and wisdom. Proverbs 18:2 says, A fool does not delight in understanding, but only wants to show off his opinions. Trading wisdom just to show off? Bad trade. Even if I have a superbly spiritual-sounding comeback I could show off.
Not only do we miss the opportunity for growing in understanding when we get cranky with those who aggravate, but we miss the blessing of blessing them. Every time you use your words to bless someone else, it becomes a rubber blessing of grace that bounces right back around to stick to you.
We don’t often think of Ephesians 4:29 as a passage for ministers’ wives, since we’re (clearing throat) already the “extra-spiritual ones.” That “spiritual-ness”? It doesn’t always make it all the way from our hearts to our brains—and then back to our tongues. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (ESV).
The word “corrupting” in that verse is from a Greek word that was originally used for rotten, putrefied food. I’m still recovering from merely looking at a bag of spinach in my college daughter’s fridge. We were digging around for salad fixings and our conversation went something like this:
Me: “Kaley, your spinach has brown juice sloshing around in the bottom of the bag.”
Kaley: “Yeah, don’t eat that. Also, don’t eat that bacon.”
Me: “No prob. I never eat bacon that’s . . . blue.”
The smell made my eyes water a little. Major reek-age. Do I even need to say that I wasn’t the least bit tempted to put any of that in my mouth? How pathetic am I when I pay more attention to salad or anything else that goes into my mouth than I do to the words I let come out of it?
We’re told in that Ephesians passage that we’re to choose a word that “fits the occasion”—words that are just right. That brings us back to the blessing of blessing. Paul doesn’t only tell us to stay away from the words that reek, but he gives us specific instructions for how our words should smell instead. When people get a whiff of my words, they should be taking in the sweet scent of grace.
It’s not about what “says you.” It’s not about what “says me” either. It all comes back around to “says Him.” Jesus Himself said, For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart (Matthew 12:34). I don’t want to overflow liquefied spinach or bacon that may or may not have blinked. I want to allow Jesus to so fill my heart that my heart overflows grace-words to all around.
I’ll just tell you, there are days I settle for simply not responding with ugly words when someone rubs me the wrong way. Maybe a lot of days. My most joy-filled days, however, are the ones where I get my brain and my heart in on it.
I do that when I ask the Lord to help me see people who rub me the wrong way exactly the way He sees them. It happens as I ask Him to give me a deep love for those He loves and ask Him to then love them through me—to fill every place in my heart where I’m powerless to love with his love-power. Not because these people are worthy of love, but because my Lord is more than worthy of my obedience. Loving them out of love for Him.
It’s only by His grace that we’re able to take the high road and rise above an irritation. He calls me to love and forgive even those who are the most annoying. And do I even have to add that sometimes the one doing the most annoying is . . . me?
Takes one to know one? I know that’s right.
Rhonda Rhea is a pastor’s wife, mom, speaker, and author and is a regular contributor to the Missouri Baptist Pathway. She and her husband serve at First Baptist Church in Troy, Missouri. Adapted from Join the Insanity—Crazy-Fun Life in the Pastors’ Wives Club (New Hope Publishers, 2014).