Sooooo…for many years, I had the following Bible verse posted on my refrigerator: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” Proverbs 15:1
I hung this verse on my refrigerator because it painted a picture of how I wanted to be. I LOVE the idea of being so self-confident that whatever anyone says to me just rolls right off of my back and I respond with grace and wisdom. However, in the heat of the moment, I love being sarcastic a whole lot more. Biting sarcasm is fun and it feels so great when I perceive an insult. It’s kind of like an emotional battle: you took a stab at me and wham! I pulled out a machete! Only, a few minutes later, I would feel awful. I didn’t want to tear people down, especially my poor husband and children. I didn’t want to respond to an innocent comment with a grenade of cynicism but I kept doing it…
So I hung a Bible verse on my refrigerator and everything changed! LOL… Actually, nothing changed except I felt a little guiltier. When I made my snide comments now, I was reminded that if I had chosen better words I could have defused a volatile situation instead of blowing it up. So I took the next step: I prayed. This was my exact prayer, “Dear God, please help me quit being so mean in the way I respond to people”…
Aaaaaaand…nothing! Nothing changed. So I prayed that prayer relentlessly. I mean I NAGGED God about it. “I want to be wise with my words.” “I’m just trying to do what you said, why don’t you help me…”
Aaaand…the only thing that changed was that the Bible verse on the refrigerator got really dirty. So I threw it away. I tried to just go on and not think about how I hadn’t changed but every time I snapped at someone, there it was: the painful reminder that I wanted to change; I prayed; and nothing happened!
After many years, I was naturally very frustrated. I was mad at God. I felt like I was trying to do the right thing and he wasn’t pulling his share of the load (which was all of it…but I mean he’s God). So I did the only thing I knew to do. I pulled out a notebook, sat down with a pen and I ranted, for two or three pages, about how angry I was. I desperately wanted to be better…why, why, why, weren’t things changing? And woe is me… wah wah wah.
Then, I ended with, this (ironic, sad, and snarky) comment: “So God, what do you have to say about that?” Almost immediately, the big glaring question that I would have liked to avoid hit me: “Where is the meanness coming from?” I had a huge sinking feeling. I did NOT want to deal with the answer to that question. But I knew. Boy did I know. As soon as I heard the question in my head, I knew that I was bitter, jealous, insecure and petty. God wasn’t going to zap me and just make me start saying great things because there were so many deeper issues that needed to be dealt with. Grrrrrrr…I hate/love that. It’s sooooo hard.
This is a part of prayer that people don’t talk about much. I never hear preachers say; “Hey if you pray a lot, God will make you deal with all the stuff in your life that you wish would just remain buried.” That message is not flashy or fun and it won’t sell a lot of books, but it is true and it is best.
My mean sarcastic remarks came (and still occasionally come) from my insecurities. So, in order for me change, I had to admit my insecurities. That was extremely hard for me. I didn’t want to deal with what I was insecure about!
One big area of insecurity for me was my decision to quit teaching. This decision did not result in huge opportunities for me. Rather, I faced the sad reality that not a lot of people want to hire English teachers who don’t want to teach. When I was honest in my prayer life about this struggle, I actually began to be less bitter. When I started dealing with my bitterness, I began to gain some confidence. I also saw that my insecurity was keeping me from doing the thing I loved most: writing. I had been too worried about people’s reactions to even begin.
I am quite glad that God didn’t just zap me and make me a compliant robot that said nice and wise things all the time. Instead, he helped me begin to change the root cause of my mean sarcasm.
So, if you are one of the many people who happens to ask me what good an English degree is, I will still reply with a sarcastic comment. However, now it will be the funny kind of sarcastic where we all laugh at the humor of my situation. Not so long ago, my reply might have been a snide sarcastic comment about your ability to form a cohesive thought! LOL
I’m a work in progress and progress feels great.
Below, I put a picture of the latest verses on my refrigerator, Ephesians 1:19-21. They remind me that I have the power of God working in me and I can be confident. (Even when my “career” is being a grandma blogger!)
P.S. Dear readers,
Please do not take my admission that I have a degree in English as a challenge to point out all of my errors. This is a blog! I am writing casually. I’m not applying to be a professor at Harvard! So back off!
(Was that mean sarcasm?…OOOPs!…still working on it!)