By Angela Royse Pelleman
I needed a favor this week from a secretary at a medical office. She didn’t owe me anything. I needed some medical supplies, and if she could help me, I wouldn’t have to take a trip all the way out to the hospital. Since the office was closing, I made sure to ask her what her name was, so I could greet her personally the next day. When I arrived the next day, I greeted her by name, with a smile. She remembered me. She wasn’t sure if she could help me, but I waited patiently for her to make a couple calls and ask some questions. She was concerned that the particular medical form I had brought in, could be an issue. I didn’t think so, but I kept quiet. “A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks at insult” (Proverbs 12:16 NIV).
By allowing her to lead, I found that the form actually could be an issue in certain situations. Regardless, she seemed determined to help me. Maybe it was because I had told her I didn’t have any expectations, but was only hopeful. I ended up leaving the office with all the medical supplies I needed, and two women smiling at me and saying good-bye. The woman, who graciously helped me, apologized for keeping me waiting. Of course, I told her an apology wasn’t necessary, that she had done me a favor. I expressed my appreciation, and thanked her for her time.
That very same day, we ran into major frustration at the hospital. After being made to wait for two hours, my sons and I were led on a wild goose chase, in search of an invisible lab. I had to trek back three times from a waiting room in the middle of nowhere, to again request that someone be sent to help us. A nurse finally arrived, and seemed to have the attitude that taking the blood work for my son was going to be too big of a job. I already felt like exploding, but I told myself to hold my tongue.
I’m so glad I did. She ended up being so kind to my son. It seemed that I had misread her. In fact, she was actually concerned about the amount of blood that needed to be taken from my son, in one sitting. Yes, it would be a tough job…for him. She and my son ended up joking with each other, while his blood was being drawn, which made the whole situation less tense. She explained that she was sorry it had taken so long, that she had been the only one on the floor upstairs, and had been working with a baby. She was also the only one on the floor available to do lab work.
I’m not always so good at holding my tongue. God knows this, and had been helping me along, since earlier in the week, I’d done just the opposite. Forgetting to let Jesus be my defender, I wrote several responses to emails by the same person, in order to try and get to the truth of a particular situation, and reach a resolution. I didn’t like how I was being treated, and the situation had been an ongoing struggle. Because I believed so strongly that I was in the right, I had a lot to say. “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise” (Proverbs 10:19).
Now, my Christian sister and I, were angry with each another. Later, I realized that even if I felt justified, several hurtful things had been said, that did not help the situation. Instead, the situation became worse. Though I had strong thoughts on the matter, I was sorry that I’d participated in an unkind, hurtful exchange with a Christian sister. I don’t want my words to hurt a Christian sister who God loves, just as much as He loves me! When we let God be our defender, he will bring truth and resolution to the situation in His timing. He may also bring something even more important. In my anger, I’d forgotten to “Let go, and let God.” The emails from both of us had taken up time that could have been better used for doing something useful and enjoyable instead.
I hoped she would forgive me for adding fuel to the fire, because no matter what, God doesn’t want us to be at war with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Being humble doesn’t mean we are admitting that another person is right. It just means coming to the situation without our weapons drawn. It means honest communication without judgments and accusations. Saying sorry does not mean becoming a doormat.
This is why I, and many others struggle with these kinds of apologies. God does not intend for us to be a doormat. He just wants us to be humble of heart, opening the door for His work to be done. Sorry is an apology when we are wrong, but it is also a way of saying, “I’m sorry that this happened.” “I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings.” “I’m sorry that we are having a problem.” It is a way of showing that you care for the other person, even through the struggle, and that you love that person as a sister-in-Christ.
It really works! A few months ago, I was apparently the one at fault in bumping the rear door of an elderly gentleman’s car, while coming out of an awkward intersection at the gas station in my town. The police officer admitted that the intersection was dangerous, and that there had been several accidents in that same spot. Before the officer arrived, the angry man got out of the car ready to give me a piece of his mind! “Didn’t you see me?” he yelled.
“Actually, no,” I said, mentioning that he seemed to have come out of nowhere. My teenaged son was with me, ready to jump in front of me to protect me, concerned about the man’s temper. “I’m sorry, “ I told the man. “I don’t know what happened, but are you okay? I just want to know if you’re okay.” I reassured him, that if this was my fault, I would take care of his car, but first we needed to make sure that no one was hurt. Before my very eyes, he melted, and became a different man, vulnerable and tired. He softened, and said it was all right, that he was fine, and then he asked me if I was okay too. That’s because the bible says, “ A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
Why didn’t I remember that on the day my Christian sister and I exchanged emails, and unkind words were said? It couldn’t be undone, but the good news is that God understands we are human, and that we will make mistakes. God loves her, and God loves me. He wipes the slate clean, and it is left white and shiny with forgiveness. I’m learning to let go, and let God take care of the hard things. Even when life doesn’t feel fair, when we put our trust in God, He will use it all for good. It is God’s love that made my anger dissolve, and I knew that if this sister needed anything, even while my anger was fresh, I’d be at her front door in a second, ready to help her with whatever she needed. I’m also willing to say she would do the same for me. After all, we are both God’s children and only “Fools mock at making amends for sin, but good will is found among the upright” (Proverbs 14:9). Surely God did work on both of our hearts, and we both asked forgiveness and forgave each other within a couple of days.
It is my desire to use my words for good. There is power in the tongue. There is great power when we use our tongues to share the words of God: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
We can use our words to build up others, to lift their spirits, and bring them joy. We can call a friend, even if it’s only a five-minute conversation. We can send a funny greeting card, or make our own, to tell someone how much we love her. We can email a church member to say we are praying for him, and also add a favorite bible verse before clicking the send button. We all know the wife of noble character from Proverbs 31. We can barely keep up with her, but we can think of her as a mentor: “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue” (Proverbs 31: 26).
“Say something nice, or don’t say anything at all,” are words of wisdom, passed down by Grandma for a reason. The bible says, “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18). Proverbs is full of wise sayings about a foolish person speaking too quickly and a wise person holding his tongue. In one month, you can read through the book of Proverbs, written by King Solomon. He is still the wisest man of all time, being that God told him he could ask for anything he wanted, and Solomon chose wisdom. You can read this story in 1 Kings Chapter 3 of the bible. If we choose to heed the words of the wisest king who ever lived, think of the gifts God can impart to us. I’m not perfect, but I’m up for trying, and I’m excited about what God has planned for me!
Prayer: God please help me use my words for your good purposes, and forgive me when I forget. Gently convict me when I’m going down the wrong path. Thank you for your wisdom. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
© 2014 Angela Royse Pelleman – The Silver Lining
Beautiful butterfly card full of encouraging words, designed and written by my dear friend René White Feather. © 2012.
© 2014 Photography – Angela Royse Pelleman – The Silver Lining