Cool Words In Heated Moments

Starting life over in a new place includes finding new people to replace the familiar ones you came to depend on. In your old place, your dentist and doctor, hair stylist and manicurist, veterinarian and handyman were people you’d grown to trust over a period of time.

When I moved from an Iowa small town of 10,000 people to the city of Phoenix, then over 2 million, I quickly realized how I’d taken my support relationships for granted. Especially when my car broke down the first time.

I asked around at church and multiple people referred me to Rick. In addition to being a master mechanic he was also a mobile one. He’d come right to your house and do the work. I called him, he fixed the car and his number got put in my phone as my trusted mechanic until I moved to Texas over ten years later.

It didn’t take long to see what Rick was about. He knew his stuff when it came to cars. He was honest. He’d tell you what needed fixing yesterday and what could wait another 15,000 miles. He took care of his tools like the precision instruments they were. His work was expertly and quickly done. Before leaving, he cleaned up whatever he messed up doing the job. And his prices were fair. Everything you’d want in a mechanic.

Rick was gently open about his faith in Jesus. He cared about the spiritual condition of the people in his life whether they were old friends or new customers.

One July day the air conditioning went out in my Mazda pickup, turning my cool ride into a rolling sauna. I called Rick. He said, “I can do it but I refer my AC work to John. He’ll take care of you. This doesn’t have anything to do with your AC but I don’t think John’s a Christian. I’m praying for him.”

I called John and he fixed my AC, giving me a full warranty on his work. It blew beautiful cold for about three days when on I-10 in the middle of afternoon rush hour it quit.

John said bring it by and he’d fix it. It took him a couple days. I was back to cool and comfortable. Until a week later the AC started spewing triple digit air. It was like driving with a blow dryer in your face.

I was starting to get frustrated.

John was frustrated, too. He had other work to do besides fixing my truck over and over. Whatever profit he made on this job was long gone. But he had promised full satisfaction and I wanted to arrive at work not looking like I’d just run a 10K.

He put on a new part and sent me on my way hoping, I’m sure, that he’d never see me again. But three days later I was back, sweat drenched and more than a little put out.

“I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say. I’ve never had problems like this with a job. Ever.” John paused to wipe his face on his sleeve. I could see he was at a loss. “I will get this thing working for you, even though you may not believe that by now.”

What came out of my mouth wasn’t a true picture of my emotions. But it was gracious. “You know, John, a little sweat never hurt anybody. In the big picture, if this is my biggest problem then I don’t have any problems.”

John stared at me. He shook his head. “These people…”, he muttered.

“What do you mean, “these people”?”

“These people. These people that Rick sends to me. They are all so…so…nice.”

His words dropped on my head like a Steinway out of the sky. These people, these Christians that Rick kept referring to John were nice. And “nice” stood out as different from what John was used to. I realized in that instant the power of kindness. Through the people Rick sent to John, God had been at work in his life. And I shuddered to think how an angry blast of verbal frustration from me could have undone every bit of it.

Never underestimate the power of kindness. Or the power of holding your tongue. Sometimes the best way to build someone up is to shut up and not tear them down.

It’s old advice. And true. When tempted to speak, ask yourself:

Is it true?

Is it necessary?

Is it kind?

If it’s not, shutting up is the godly thing to do.

“You must let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but only what is beneficial for the building up of the one in need,  that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. You must put away every kind of bitterness, anger, wrath, quarreling, and evil, slanderous talk. Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.”  

– Ephesians 4:29-32 

Todd A. Thompson – August 1, 2013

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