It wasn’t as much what they said as who they said it about. You see, the text was about someone we both knew. But its author had accidentally sent it not to its intended recipient, but instead to the subject of the text.
My friend sent me a text about me.
We’ve all sent a text to the wrong person. In the middle of texting my wife, I get a message from someone else and accidentally respond to the wrong person. Usually it’s no harm done. We just tell our work associate thanks, but we don’t need them to pick up eggs on the way home after all.
But this text was about me. The author had made a snarky remark about me to a mutual friend, he thought. Oops!
I stared at the screen for about 20 seconds, stunned. I thought this guy was a friend, and now I felt betrayed. I’d said only glowing things about him, so I couldn’t figure why he’d take a shot at me.
Should I respond back? Wouldn’t that teach him a lesson!
“Hey, you might be interested to know you sent that text TO ME and not your partner in crime! Maybe you ought to cut back on the gossip, huh?”
Self-righteous anger gushed through my veins. Right about now he was probably realizing what he’d done. He had waited for a response, gotten none, and was now re-checking his phone.
Oh how I’d love to see his face right as he realizes what he’s done!
And about now, I’m starting to feel a little silly. I realize I’m acting like some gossipy old church ladies, talking behind each others backs and repaying each tit for tat. Seriously, who among us hasn’t said something unflattering about a friend? Sure, we love them, but we’d be blind not to see their faults.
So we make a crack about them to a mutual friend, assuming they’ll never be hurt by it. We rationalize it by saying, “If I said it to their face, they couldn’t handle the truth.”
Sometimes I think we expect too much from people. We expect constant allegiance. If we have a conflict with someone else, they’d better choose our side or they are no friend of ours.
They must take a pledge that we are sinlessly perfect in every circumstance, never seeing fault in us. If not, we banish them to our enemies list.
As a pastor, I deal with this continually. I’m a big fan of the truth. Not because I’m that noble, but mainly because I don’t lie very well. I have a rather overdeveloped conscience.
But often, I realize I can’t really be myself with people. I have to present a side of myself I believe they can handle. I know, I know…you think that makes me a fake. But I disagree.
You see, some senior adults would never get my sick sense of humor and Monty Python references. Some non-Christians wouldn’t appreciate me saying how meaningless I think their lives are. So while I’m careful to never say anything I don’t believe, I focus on things that are common ground.
I elect to build bridges when I could just as easily erect barriers.
That’s one reason I never talk politics. I want to minimize the things that separate me from others, and nothing separates like politics. This is truly a sacrifice at times, because I have just as much right to state my opinion as anyone.
Next time anyone tells you pastors have no right to speak about politics, ask them how we’d be doing if MLK had just kept his mouth shut!
The funny byproduct of this is that everyone presumes I agree with them. If they’re a progressive, they think surely I’m on their side about helping the poor. And conservatives are absolutely sure I’m against the taking of innocent life in the womb. And interestingly enough, both assumptions are correct!
However, you may think it’s disingenuous of me to let them think I agree on their talking points. But does it really matter? Why do we feel the need to make every pick sides with us?
Isn’t it ironic when some of the most hateful voices are often people speaking against hate? The most intolerant of opposing viewpoints those demanding tolerance?
The Bible’s a big fan of the truth, but not when it’s used to hurt people. The Apostle Paul cautions us to “speak the truth IN LOVE” (Eph 4:15). That means to temper truth with kindness.
I’ve known some preachers who’d spend an hour slashing their congregations to bits. They’d say, “Well, if the truth hurts, that just tough. I’m only preaching the Word of God.”
Sir, while it may be true you preached God’s Word, you swing it like a barbarian with a sledge hammer.
The same scalpel that heals in the hands of a surgeon can destroy when wielded by Jack the Ripper. And I’ve known way too many rippers in the pulpit, taking their own frustrations out on their innocent congregations.
My hope is that I can tell people the kindest version of the truth possible. Just enough to excise the tumor, with minimal bleeding out.
So I’m inclined to give my texting buddy a pass today. We could all use some grace every now and then. His goal wasn’t to destroy me, and my ego could probably use a little deflating from time to time.
But one thing I’ve learned. I’ll be all the more careful the next time I hit “send”.
Dave Gipson is a husband, father of 4 adopted children and one biological child, former foster parent, and pastor at Naples Family Church of Naples, FL. An author, Dave's new highly acclaimed book, "The Seven Surprises: Everyday Epiphanies on Being a Better Human Being," is now available. He also contributes regular commentaries to the Naples Daily News as well as other international publications. He has served churches for the last 25+ years, from Florida to the inner-city of Chicago. Rev. Gipson holds his ordination in the Southern Baptist denomination, and has two earned Masters degrees in Religion and Divinity. Read more at http://davegipson.net.Follow him on Twitter at @realdavegipson.