“Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit in me.” – Psalm 51:10
About three years ago a friend and I met before class, and she told me she was hungry because she had forgotten to eat dinner the night before. She didn’t have enough money in her account to buy a meal. I bought her breakfast, but before that I made a snarky comment, “Well you should’ve taken care of yourself and ate a meal.” This was holier-than-thou Biakku, except she wasn’t very holy – just condemning. It was evident that my words hurt her feelings, and the situation could have done without that – without me telling her, she probably came to that conclusion on her own. This wasn’t the only time I was snarky; I treated my family this way and probably others as well. In this moment God made me realize I have a problem with words. I remembered someone telling me they went through Proverbs, highlighted every passage on anger, and read those over and over, so I decided to do the same for my tongue. Of the verses, this one spoke to me most fervently:
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” – Proverbs 12:18.
I became more mindful of my words; however, after a while I realized the words were rooted in bitter character. It would be difficult to tame my tongue if I did not invite God to create a clean and compassionate heart in me. More so, the root of my words was my pride – my perception that I was responsible and could do no wrong. I don’t mean we shouldn’t point out mistakes because we are all sinners, but that we should ask ourselves if our intentions are laced with love, what good would come about from our words, and if we even need to say anything. With wisdom from God, we can choose to respond effectively. In our Chin community, I’ve found we throw words around a lot. In the house, words are crass, and many times we label it as “Chin culture”, shrug our shoulders, and move on. Sometimes we just don’t consider if our words are needed or which words are needed to bring friends and family closer to God. I don’t pretend to know if this element of our culture can be attributed to insecurity, resentment, or pride, but I do want to invite everyone to authentically, honestly evaluate our words and more importantly our hearts when we respond to other’s mistakes … and to life.
That example was simple. When our responses concern loved ones, say family, and larger mistakes, then the situation escalates – we can’t seem to escape from the responsibility of responding (not responding is also a response) not only verbally but also behaviorally. It’s in these situations that compassion is most demanded of us. Compassion doesn’t validate the wrong, but it does open the door for resilience. Our hearts in how we approach the situation will dictate whether we construct. Think, how can we move forward? Often times, we hold onto reprimand tightly and rely on that to convey our love. And a lot of times, that’s not sufficient. Sometimes the reprimand needs to be coupled with a gentle tone, hugs (I don’t know why, but Asian families, we don’t really hug), or text messages saying “I love you. God loves you more. You can do it!” (it’s corny, but try it). Love is a verb, they say. Here we have a chance to depict the image of Christ. I’m reminded of a poem:
Sermons We See
I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day,
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely show the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear;
Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear;
And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds,
For to see the good in action is what everybody needs.
I can soon learn how to do it if you’ll let me see it done.
I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lectures you deliver may be very wise and true;
But I’d rather get my lesson by observing what you do.
For I may misunderstand you and the high advice you give,
But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.
-Edgar A. Guest.
At the end of the day, it is always about God. What better way to show His goodness than to emulate His love? What better way to show His goodness than to allow mistakes to show the transforming power of His grace? Are we instigators for that to happen? It’s not really about how terrible the mistake was, it’s not really about the reputation that was damaged, it’s not really about how disappointed we are, and it is really about GOD and really about being changed to be more like Christ. So with pure intentions and a compassionate heart, reprimand, but let known your love and God’s love as you do it… all, of course, for His glory.
Most of the time, I don’t know what specific steps to follow, and you might not either. But the sure-fire most loving thing we can do is pray. We can pray not only for our close friend or family to be able to rise out of the incident but also for God to grant us the wisdom to know what to do. We have to invite God. Prior to the last several years, and you could say prior to becoming a mino (youth), I don’t think I had ever considered or thought to ask for wisdom. “[Success] comes from knowing when to do something, when not to do something, how to do something, being able to distinguish between what we can do and what we cannot do. I believe wisdom comes from God and has to be asked for and sought for.” Until I heard those words from Dr. Ben Carson, it never quite struck me that my efforts would be futile unless we employ wisdom from our Father. Our God listens, He delivers, and He is with us.
I’d like to close with this: I once heard that wedding was a present participle because it’s not an event completed in a day but an ongoing practice/relationship between two people. Our walk with Christ is very much a present participle too. I opened with how I learned to deal with my words but that doesn’t mean I don’t have to recalibrate every day. And though no example was used to illustrate the latter situation, I’m sure we have wrestled with a similar one. And I’m sure we all know we make mistakes in our responses, and in that case, we can hope it’s done unto us what we do to others. Our responses are an ongoing work – WE are an ongoing work.