Monday, September 15, 2014

Foolish Words

Several years ago, I was watching my nephew’s little league game. The father of one of the boys on the opposing team was being obnoxious, and he got louder and ruder as the game wore on.

He also happened to be wearing a fanny pack. I have nothing against fanny packs; I’ve worn them myself a time or two. But I have a lot against obnoxious parents at little league games. I began to make cracks to the person next to me about “the man with the purse.” I’m not sure if my seat mate was amused by my comments, but I was.

Near the end of the game, a man a couple of seats away from me stood up. And there, around his waist, was a fanny pack. I knew this man, and I liked him. He had been within earshot of me the entire game, and had heard every one of my comments about men who wear accessories just like his.

I think this man was more amused at the situation than anything. We had several interactions in coming years, and he didn’t seem to hold it against me. Since he is no longer living, I know he’s not worried about it today. But I am still blushing as I recount this story.

I wish I could say this type of thing was an isolated incident, that I had to dig deep in the recesses of my memory to think of a time I had said something to embarrass myself. But that’s not the case. The well of stories to draw from is woefully deep, and many of them come to mind often. Just the other day I was on a walk, and the memory of something mortifying I had said a few years ago nearly stopped me in my tracks.

I struggle with what to do with these memories. Why do I seem to be so plagued with them? Is it wrong to remember them? To be so embarrassed by them?

In her book Grace Is Free, Marci Preheim refers to this phenomenon as “day-after-girls-night-out regret.” That feeling you have after time with friends that you’ve said too much.

Whether we talk too much or quietly hide ourselves in the crowd, the root of our turmoil is the same. We desire to be perceived a certain way. Our sin doesn’t bother us when it remains hidden, but when everyone sees it, we fret, withdraw, and justify ourselves.

We like to think these things are embarrassing because they are so uncharacteristic of us, but in reality, they reveal sides of us that we would prefer to keep hidden. I am more apt to embarrass myself when I’m trying too hard to be funny or clever, or trying to draw attention to myself. I don’t usually put my foot in my mouth when I’m trying to build others up. If I spend my time listening to other people, rather than thinking of the next thing to say, things go better.

I wish I had a helpful hint, or three steps to banish careless words from your conversation. Many people probably don’t need as much help as me. But I don’t have them. My foolish words will be a problem of mine as long as I am still a fool, and I am afraid that will be a very long time.

And when the foolish words come, as they do far too often, I remind myself what they are. The words themselves are not the problem, they are instead a symptom of a far larger problem: my sinful nature. I am a sinner in need of great grace. The fact that I embarrass myself from time to time is actually the least of the problem. But all that has been paid on the cross.

Someday, my faith will become sight. I will be free from the effects of sin, and I will no longer put my foot in my mouth. Will I even notice? Probably not. I will finally be, for the first time, not focused enough on myself to think about it.


  1. Been here more than I care to think. Love your last paragraph!

  2. Thank you for this! Boy can I identify!

  3. Don't you know this hits home, especially when I get nervous. Words just fall right out and later I want to slap myself. This is kind of weird but sometimes I write a bit of a verse or a word (like doulos) on top of my hand. Since I use my hands a lot when I talk, the word or verse flashes in front of my face and reminds me to let the Spirit be in control. Sometimes it has led to conversations with people because they ask what it is or why I did it, definitely keeps me on the right path. Looking forward to that day when I am also free from effects of sin.

  4. Have you been reading my mail? You describe me far too accurately!

  5. This happened to me last week having coffee with a woman I'd not seen in several years. Proverbs 10:19