Have you ever had an occasion when you knew you wouldn’t see someone again so you just wanted to let them have it? What harm could come, since they would never cross paths with you again, right? They probably won’t even remember you.
I was running behind to meet a group at a Reds game. The morning had been spectacular, so I was feeling excited as I headed in to meet some leaders (not the group pictured). They had come to Cincinnati on a pre-project visit, getting a visual of the city and a rough idea of what their teams would be doing. Late plus double-excitement had me rushing to get inside.
As I pass people, especially when I interact even for a moment, I like to smile and be friendly. At the least, I want to leave a moment of kindness in their day. I drop the normal “How are you doing?” Few people ever truly engage the question.
Yet one guy did as I headed into the stadium. He was subtle, throwing out a “not so great” as if he was saying casual “doing great.” It caught me, and though I wasn’t the only one passing through his security line, I stopped enough to acknowledge that wasn’t an answer to blow off. “Oh man, I’m sorry to hear,” was probably the gist of what I said. “You’ll get over it,” and he turned away.
I didn’t get over it. Unable to speak with him any further, I prayed for him as I headed inside. I’ve prayed for him several times since. I didn’t want to get over it. Rather than obsessing, I’m simply recognizing two things: 1) even our off-the-cuff responses effect others, and 2) when something stands out, it stands out for a reason.
This gentleman stood out, though not as he intended. He wasn’t being mean, but he was quite dismissive of any concern he thought I likely didn’t really have. Whatever troubled him was weighing on him enough to toss his job’s protocol aside. While I couldn’t engage him any more at the time, I could still take the concern to the One that could see it through.
As I talked with my wife into the night, the encounter came to mind. I was surprised to still be thinking about it, but a simple truth came to mind: when we are far removed, our words linger. Use them wisely.
Where I’m coming from…
It was said “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.” (Ephesians 4:29). High standards.
You could see rules there. Or you could see a guide to living in better relationship to one another. Of course, it’s actually both. We cast a frustrated or disparaging thought regarding “rules” when we want to live our own way with disregard of the impact on others. Forget the rules then. Set your heart on compassion. How will you effect others’ lives in your words?
Rather than talking down toward others, we are to find words that are “good for building up.” Our words have impact, so we must use them wisely, that the impact will be to strengthen rather than damage. We can’t dismiss the impact just because we’ll only see them briefly. Guarding our words is all the more important when they are someone of significance to us. They won’t get over it as much as you may think.