Several years ago, we had a big event at my church, and I had to wear a wireless microphone to address the crowd. You should have heard me that day. I was brilliant, eloquent and, as you can tell, dripping with humility.
That was all about to change.
Soon after I stepped off the stage, I had a run-in with a leader who was driving me crazy. I don’t even remember what it was about, but I do remember boiling with frustration.
The second he left the room, I turned to a friend who had witnessed the whole thing, and I zinged my nemesis with a perfectly worded put-down behind his back. I have to admit it felt good. It was funny. It was clever. It was cathartic. But it was about to come back and bite me.
I glanced down at my side and saw that the switch on my wireless mic was still on. Every word of my mean-spirited comment had been broadcast to the entire church.
I thought I was going to throw up. Minutes before, I had been on stage thinking I was really spiritual, but now everyone in the church would know what a total jerk I really was. Jesus once said that out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Now, everyone knew what was in my heart.
I returned to the worship center ready to eat crow. As I made my way past the sound booth toward the stage, I looked over at the mixing board and saw a beautiful red light winking at me. It indicated that my microphone had been muted from the booth the whole time. Whew!
It goes without saying that I learned a huge lesson that day about keeping my big mouth shut, but the real problem was far worse. I cared more about my reputation being ruined than the fact that I had such vindictive junk in my heart to begin with.
As I write this column, the entire country is freaking out over the damaged BP oil well that’s spewing gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Rightly so. Anything that can unleash that level of devastation needs to be reined in fast. Ironically, though, we give little attention to the devastating power of our words.
Every day we spew toxic junk at the people around us. A cruel barb. Juicy gossip. A harsh retort. Imagine if someone recorded our words for 24 hours. I think we’d all be a little shocked at what we’d hear.
Looking back, I’m thankful for my brush with embarrassment. I’m thankful for a wake-up call that reminded me that every word counts, especially the ones I speak in secret. It is these secret words that reveal the true content of my heart.