Counting to 10: Why I won’t say what I really want to say right now
Not miffed. Not peeved. Not ticked, but downright, foot-stomping, teeth-grinding mad!
We’re talking prickly-heat-crawling-up-my-neck, feel-my-pulse-in-my-temples, tears-burning-my-eyes, why-can’t-I-swallow, know-I’m-gonna-have-a-headache-from-this-later mad, and I’ve gotta tell ya, in moments like these, being a writer is more hindrance than it is help.
That inability to come up with what you want to say when you want to say it? Yeah, I don’t have that. Right now, my problem is coming up with something that is actually okay for me to say!
So, I’m biting my tongue.
1. Letting those frothy words fly might release a little tension in the moment, but they’d create a mess for me to clean up later. And, yes, I would have to clean it up! The Bible says I can’t enjoy intimacy with God as long as someone else has something against me (Matt 5:23-24), so I have to apologize when I mess up, and, let’s be honest, keeping things right with others is way easier than making things right with others.
2. You can’t take words back. Like coats of white paint over graffiti, heart-felt, well-worded apologies may soften the glare of hurtful words, but they don’t erase the ragged outline. Say something you shouldn’t, and your victim will feel the shock of it anew every time their consciousness drives by the memory.
3. “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1). Now, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a little part of me screaming, “Bring it!”—transformation is a process, y’all! —but that girl is a fool. The Bible says so (Prov. 20:3), so I’d best go with the rest of me, the part that really does want to be a peacemaker like Jesus.
4. “…Human anger doesn’t produce the righteousness that God desires” (Jas. 1:20). Does holy anger? Well, maybe, but trust me, there’s nothing holy about the way I’m feeling right now. If I let words out of my mouth right now, they wouldn’t be righteous; they’d be sinful because they’d go directly against the nature of the God I represent.
5. My sin grieves the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30). I’m a Christian, see, so Jesus’ Holy Spirit lives in my heart, and when I do something that goes against His nature, it affects Him in a negative way. I don’t understand how. I don’t understand why. I just know it’s true. I love Him, so I won’t put Him through that.
6. Their sin wasn’t against me. Oh, I felt it, alright! And what they did was wrong—really wrong, if there are degrees of wrong, which I think the Bible refutes (Jas 2:10)—but, in the end, their actions are really between them and God (Psalm 51:4). As I understand it, what makes sin sin is that it doesn’t match up with God’s holiness. As much as it shames me to admit it, if you were to match what this person did up against the kinds of things I’m capable of, you’d find a pretty close match. No incongruity, so no sin against me. Match it up against God, and the sin is obvious. Honestly? Even the apology I really hope to get from this person wouldn’t be mine by right, but by the grace of God alone, as their apologizing would only be a by-product of their trying to do what’s right, a concept that means absolutely nothing without standard of God’s holiness.
7. My silence gives God room to speak to their heart. It’s not my job to convince others that their actions are wrong. I’m not capable. It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, or convince, people of their sin (John 16:8). Yes, He sometimes uses people to deliver the message of truth that He then drives home, but as long as I’m under the influence of anger, I’m no good to Him for reasons given above. If I said what I want to say right now, I’d be planting myself firmly between this person and the God with whom they need to have a heart-to-heart. I’d be a distraction rather than an instrument of peace.
8. Hot coals are more effective than hot words (Prov. 25:21-22). Not actual hot coals, but the coals of grace and mercy that those of us who follow Christ are called to extend to others, even when they treat us badly. Treat meanies like they treat you, and they’ll feel justified. Treat them like Jesus treated His persecutors, and they might actually feel bad about it. Of course, if they do, don’t gloat, or God will quit disciplining them so you don’t get the self-righteous big-head (Prov. 24:17-18)!
9. I don’t want to burn any bridges of relationship that could someday bear the burden of truth. That’s every relationship, from strangers to soul mates. To me, there’s no greater joy than imparting the truth of Scripture to others or showing them how it applies to their lives so they can either come to know Him or get to know Him better. I’d hate to forfeit that privilege by identifying myself as someone who can’t be trusted to uphold and live by the truth that they proclaim.
10. In the end, God’s purposes are more important than my own, and, in this moment, keeping my thoughts to myself would serve those purposes best. God’s ultimate purpose is His glory (Eph. 1:10), or the display of His divine perfection, and my actions as a redeemed child of God who proclaims the power of God to save and transform either prove or call into question His ability to do those very things. I don’t desire for a split-second to dim His much-deserved spotlight.
That, in a nutshell, is why I won’t say what I want to say right now…well, what I wanted to say a few moments ago, anyway.
Hey! What do you know?! Counting to 10 really does help!