I came across the following devotional that I thought shows an account of what James has been teaching us about guarding our tongue, and instead of retaliating, taking the situation to the Lord in prayer. This is written by Rachel Olsen, and was originally published in in Proverbs 31 Ministries.
What a challenging verse Paul penned in Romans 12:18.
Several years ago someone close to me confided their plans to me. They told a few other people I know at the same time. None of us thought her plans were wise, yet no one said anything in response.
Feeling her plans weren’t well thought out or grounded in God’s Word, I feared she would wind up with regret and likely hurt other people in the process. I didn’t want to see my friend make what I felt would be a big mistake. So I tried logically and lovingly to lay out for her the reasons I felt this way. She took offense and got angry with me. Honestly, I expected that. No one likes to have their plans blocked or their decisions questioned.
What I didn’t expect was her to verbally to attack me, my character, my marriage and my role in ministry in response! But that’s what she did, including some choice allegations and blatant lies.
I don’t like to argue – at all – but that said, I’m pretty good at it when I’m mad. (I’m a communication instructor after all.) Once I reach boiling point, I can explode. And in the past I’ve let my emotions and my mouth run unchecked in situations like this.
I had a large load of ammunition I could fire back at her with, and more than half a mind to do so. But I also had the Spirit of God in my soul and the words of Paul memorized. So I chose to bite my tongue this time.
It was hard.
Feeling nudged by God, I resolved not to fire back or call her to task for what she had said. I resisted pointing out that my comments to her were an attempt to look out for everyone’s well-being including hers. And resisted pointing out that her comments to me seemed hateful in return. Instead, I took all my anger, hurt feelings and lengthy “speeches” to Jesus.
I prayed while I waited for my hurting heart to catch up with my decision to overlook this offense. It took months for that process to complete in me. Hurt feelings often die hard.
As much as it was up to me, that’s all I felt I could do.
It took a couple years for her to fully come back around, but she did. She also never went through with those plans. And the others in the group saw her attack for what it was: an unfounded tirade leveled in the heat of the moment.
Our relationship today is intact and she’s even OK with me sharing our story. I firmly believe this is because I bit my tongue, and prayed with it rather than burning relational bridges. Though she questioned my character at the time, I let God be my advisor and my defense – and then let my actions speak for themselves. And I don’t regret any part of that course of action, unlike those times in the past when I simply spewed.
One thing I’ve learned living on this planet is we sure have a hard time being at peace with one another. But when God’s Spirit is given room to move in a woman’s hurting heart, she can graciously handle conflict and overlook an offense. It’s not easy, but it is worth it.
Hebrews 12:14 says, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (NIV). So today, as much as it is up to us, let’s allow peace to reign and Christ to be seen.
Dear Lord, relationships can be so hard to navigate. Help me know when to hold my tongue and pray instead. Help me overlook the little offenses made in ignorance or the insults made in the heat of an argument. And help me to also know when I should stand up and speak up. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.