How many times have said this? Or heard these words directed at you?
Or even issued this directive at yourself, followed up by: “What was I thinking? Why did I do that?”
Is there any greater challenge than Managing Self?
The apostle Paul addressed this issue with his son in the faith, Timothy.
I Timothy 3:14-15 These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly. But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God.
And Number One on the List–that “issue” we all face and deal with every day:
Control your tongue.
Proverbs 13:3 He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life: but he that openeth his mouth wide his lips shall have destruction.
Proverbs 21: 23 Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from trouble.
Proverbs 26:20 Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out; so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth.
Refraining, restraining, and re-training our speech is a daily challenge, is it not? How difficult it is in the heat of the moment to keep from lashing out, from saying what we are thinking, from “slaying utterly” with our tongues.
But what, we may wonder, if what we’re hearing from… whatever the source, whatever the length of time… is mistaken or unjust? Are we not allowed to respond “in kind”?
Here’s what another apostle said, one who had a lifelong, well-documented struggle with keeping his mouth from saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.
I Peter 2:19-20 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully,. For what glory is it, if when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
My favorite example along these lines is Hannah, who bore the heartache of being childless.
She had lived for years in the same house with another woman–the other wife–who was blessed with many children, We read in I Samuel 1 that Hannah, despite her disappointment, continued to go to the temple to pray. And she was “in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore. [v. 12]…Eli the priest marked her mouth, and said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? Put away thy wine from thee. [v. 15] Hannah answered, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul unto the Lord. [v. 17] And Eli answered, Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition thou hast asked of him.
Dear Hannah had sorrow enough from being childless, no comfort from her husband, who did not understand; gloating from the other wife in the house, who had no trouble producing child after child; and then, hoping for a sympathetic ear, she went to the temple to pray once more, only to be met by a jaded priest (with problems of his own), who took one look at her and concluded she was drunk, and did not approach her with compassion, “Is there anything I can do to help?” but judged her immediately.
[Leaders, in whatever capacity: let us pause and insert here–yes, you may be busy and weighed down and have multiple demands pressing on you, but do not take out your frustration on those who seek you out for help. It’s not their fault the last issue you faced, person you dealt with, got on your last nerve. True…we do not know Eli’s side of the story. He may have had a perfectly good reason for making the assumption he did. We know his own sons were a source of disappointment to him [I Samuel 2:12] but that wasn’t Hannah’s fault.]
If anyone ever had the right to turn and say, “What kind of ‘priest’ are you anyway? How in the world did a hateful man like you end up in this job?”
But that is not how Hannah behaved. She treated him with proper respect, due to his position (not his personality) and explained calmly what her problem was.
And Eli repented.
Hannah was granted her request, gave birth to Samuel, and gave him to the Lord, years later bringing back her son to this very priest, who had verbally abused her.
And Samuel was a gift to the whole nation of Israel.
Next Monday: Control your spirit. II Corinthians 7:1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.