Perry Emerick – Mesa Campus Pastor
When I was a kid, there was a show that ran from the late 70’s to the mid 80’s called “Different Strokes” about an older gentleman who adopts brothers Arnold and Willis. Arnold was played by the late Gary Coleman and his older brother Willis was played by Todd Bridges. One of the marquee lines of that show was whenever Willis would say something to Arnold that he didn’t like, Arnold would scrunch his face, glare at him and say, “Whatch you talkin’ about Willis?” I still in fun find myself saying that phrase when someone says something I don’t like.
The thing is, there are many times that people say things to me that I don’t like, and when that happens I am faced with a question and a choice. The question is, “what are they really talking about?” and the choice is, “how will I respond?” For many of us, our first inclination is to hear criticism as a personal attack against our intentions, actions, character or abilities. When something goes wrong at home and our spouse starts “yelling” at us about it (we often interpret criticism as yelling even if they are not yelling), we assume they are blaming us for what happened, even it we had nothing to do with it. This way of interpretation leads to the choice…”how will I respond?” If we feel attacked our response will be to defend, counter attack, and clear our name, often at the expense of the other.
But what if we are not actually being attacked? What if we are interpreting what they are really talking about all wrong? As Christians, we often hear the phrase “speak the truth in love” which is a reference to a verse in Ephesians 4. And though ideally we would heed those words in our conversation, we cannot control how others speak to us. But we can control how we choose to hear how they speak to us. It is a simple twist, that when we are not speaking, we can choose to hear the truth in love. James 1:19-20 says this,
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
When someone who cares about you is willing to tell you something difficult, they are giving you a gift! When we respond defensively and reactively, we are basically saying, I don’t care about you or the gift you are giving me…I care about protecting me. Yet if our faith and hope are in Jesus Christ…if our worth and value come from him, then what others say to you does not devalue you, it reinforces your value. It’s intent is to increase your value. It all comes down to how you choose to hear it. So here are some questions to consider when it comes to hearing the truth in love:
- What are you unwilling to hear?
- Why are you unwilling to hear it?
- Who’s gifts have you been rejecting?
- Who do you need to apologize to and thank for caring enough about you to share what they have shared?
This small shift could absolutely transform many of your relationships. Give it a try!