1Peter 3:8-12 (The Message version)
"Summing up: Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions. No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless--that's your job, to bless. You'll be a blessing and also get a blessing.
Whoever wants to embrace life and see the day fill up with good, Here's what you do: Say nothing evil or hurtful; snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you're worth. God looks on all this with approval, listening and responding well to what He's asked; But He turns His back on those who do evil things."
The part about "No sharp-tongued sarcasm" stopped be cold. I love sarcasm. I consider it to be one of my most fluent languages. I take a certain degree of pride in that.
My kids have even caught on. Almost 5 year old E said to me the other day, "Mommy, what's being sarcastic?" I explained that it is when you say something you don't mean, on purpose. She thought about this for a minute and then said, "You mean when you told (almost 2 year old) H today that she was 'listening beautifully'?"
Wow. Yep. She had me there. It was a wake up call for me. I didn't realize how much I use sarcasm with my kids. What a mixed message that has to be. They hear me say one thing but know I mean another.
It made me realize how many times I give them a sarcastic smile. One that says "If you do that again I will absolutely explode." So when I smile at them now sometimes, my kids ask, "Is that a mean smile, mommy?"
How sad that they can't even be sure my smile is sincere.
So, coming back to this verse...I started thinking about the part that says my job is to bless.
Other than after a sneeze, how do you 'bless' someone? What does that look like in practical terms?
I took an informal poll on my personal Facebook page. The responses I got seemed to indicate a physical, outward act.
That's easy when it's in relation to someone you love, Or at least like.
But what happens when it's the rude lady in line behind you who's complaining under her breath when your kids are fussy or fighting?
What about the obnoxious guy on the other end of the phone who insists on speaking so condescendingly to you?
What about the adult who reprimands your child before you even have an opportunity to step in?
I'm supposed to bless them?
If by bless you mean give them a thorough tongue lashing or a fist to the throat, I'm in.
Wait...NO sharp-tongued sarcasm? Seriously?
If sarcasm is out, I'm going to assume so is the fist to the throat.
My only recourse should be to bless them??
So I started trying to visualize what that means. How do I bless someone. Especially someone I hate with a burning passion--even if just in that moment.
I guess for starters it means NOT saying what I want to say. NOT spewing more negativity into the situation. Not telling them what a waste of space I think they are.
I can get quite hateful in certain situations. Whether it's a stranger or someone I love dearly, if you say or do just the right thing, I can go from zero to blind, raging hate in 2.3 seconds.
It's obviously a huge character flaw.
Feeling indignant that an injustice should not be tolerated, I flashed to the part in the Bible that says an "Eye for an eye". I looked it up in my Bible and I came to Matthew 5:38-42 (also the Message version):
"Here's another old saying that deserves a second look: 'Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.' Is that going to get us anywhere? Here's what I propose: 'Don't hit back at all.' If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues you for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously."
That wasn't what I 'remembered' about an Eye for an Eye. Not what I wanted to remember, anyway.
I wanted a verse that said, "When rude lady insults you for no good reason, you may punch her in the face." Or "Should obnoxious man yell at your children, you have every right to kick him in the groin."
But no. It wasn't there.
In fact, it's the EXACT opposite.
I should just stand there and take it??
I have to be honest and tell you that does NOT sit well with me.
So here I am STILL noodling what exactly this means, what this looks like.
In some ways it's exasperating, but in others, it's SURPRISINGLY refreshing and freeing.
I don't HAVE To get mad. I don't HAVE To retaliate. In fact, I shouldn't.
I should only be kind and compassionate.
The guy who cut me off in traffic? He doesn't require a loud blast of my horn or the obligatory dirty look when I pull alongside him at the next traffic light.
The less-than-hospitable McDonald's worker who can't even make contact or mutter 'thank you' when I pay for my order? I don't have to say "THANK YOU!" loudly and dripping with sarcasm so that she gets my point.
That A-Hole at Target who says my son "needs a nap" because he's 3 and throwing a typical 3 year old tantrum? They shouldn't have to endure a witty "Mind your own business and STFU" from me.
As much as it may burn within me to hold my tongue, I now know that, not only is it polite, but it's what Christ tells me to do.
So here goes it. I'm embarking on a campaign to hold my tongue. And to bless. I'm thinking it's the same as "Kill 'em with kindness." Even though the "killing" part is easier in theory.
I'm also open to suggestions for how to bless...