I belong to an online support group. It’s not run like a face-to-face group would be run – and why should it be? It’s a Facebook page. And even though this is a place where people should feel safe expressing themselves however they need to, there are still people who try to get everyone else to conform to their own idea of appropriate behavior. And I’m sorry, but that is just plain wrong – especially in this forum.
I am a Christian and I have chosen not to swear. (I think it’s important to note here though that up until a few years ago I swore like a drunken sailor on shore leave.) However, God has changed me too much to be comfortable with swearing any longer. There’s even a scripture verse that says (addressing believers): “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)
But not everyone lives their life according to God’s standards as laid out in scripture. I understand this, and while I am not comfortable using or listening to those words anymore, I choose to look past a few swears to a person’s heart and character. Once upon a time I used to think I had the right to be the behavior police, judging how everyone else conducted themselves. The truth is that I was miserable; I couldn’t even get a handle on MY behavior. It was just so much easier to point out flaws in everyone else’s conduct than it was to focus on my own.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7: 1-5)
You know, I discovered something a couple of years ago with regard to the above portion of scripture. Freedom. There is such freedom in knowing that I don’t have to be concerned with anyone else’s behavior – only my own. In other words, it is not my job to be the behavior police. This means I can just relax and enjoy people. There is so much freedom in that!
The kind of raunchy humor that used to make me laugh so hard I’d literally fall off the couch makes me very uncomfortable now. Still, I don’t turn my back on people who try to make me laugh by telling me off-color jokes or try to cut them down to size in a hurtful way simply because they’ve made me a little uncomfortable.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13: 1-8)
So to the person who felt the need to respond in a callous manner to a nakedly honest post by a fellow member of the support group simply because the fellow member used a swear word in the post, I wish I could hug you. I understand where you’re coming from because I used to be there myself. I used to feel that people should conform to my idea of “appropriate behavior” instead of just accepting them for who they are, where they’re at, and letting God worry about changing anything in them that HE feels needs to be changed. But I understand now that the reason I was like this was because my life was so miserable and out of control I somehow felt that things would be better if I could control everyone else around me. But they weren’t better and I couldn’t control anyone else.
I wasn’t able to relax and claim God’s peace for myself until I just let go. I let go of my expectations of other people; I try very hard NOT to have expectations of others. And if I catch myself feeling hurt or upset because someone acted in a manner that upset me or didn’t act in a manner I hoped they would/thought they should, when I’m praying and pouring my heart out to God He usually points out to me that I am upset over a disappointed expectation – then He gently reminds me that I need to let go of my expectations. Again. And when I choose to forgive whoever hurt/upset me, letting go of those pesky expectations in the process, the weight that lifts off of me is palpable.
So I wish I could hug you in understanding and because you must be hurting pretty badly to feel the need to slap down someone else who is hurting and trying to recover from the same thing you are trying to recover from.