The biggest issues you and I will ever face will be within the framework of our relationships. Whether it's our marital relationship, or our relationships with our friends, family members, work associates, etc. We are people living and dealing with the personalities and challenges of others, as well as those of ourselves.
Today during our church service, guest speakers Denny and DeAnza Duron spoke on how relationships grow and thrive in an environment of honor. To honor one another you have to favor them, to speak well of them (whether you are in their presence or not), and prefer them to yourself. That doesn't mean that we will always excel in this area - there are plenty of times where I haven't honored those in my life as I should have in the words I've spoken about them, but God is able to fill in the gaps where we mess up when we are willing to acknowledge our mishap.
In order for me to understand when I've overstepped a boundary or said something I shouldn't have, I have to be willing to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal it to me, and then make a correction. The Holy Spirit is a still, small voice, and it's easy to ignore when he's offering correction. If you look at a parental relationship, a mother or father will gently correct a child when they do something wrong in order to prevent that issue from growing into something larger (back-talking, interrupting, bad attitudes, jealousy, etc.); to not correct a child would allow that issue to settle in and create larger problems as they grow up. The Holy Spirit never corrects us to condemn us or make us feel unworthy, but to offer a small course correction in an area of our lives that, if left uncorrected, would create larger problems for us in the future.
This morning, there were several individuals who came to mind throughout the service that the Holy Spirit quietly corrected me about. Individuals that I have harbored an issue with and allowed to settle into my heart. The problem with allowing something to fester and grow in your heart is that it always comes out in your speech. You can't hide it after a while. If you want to know if you're harboring anything against anyone, listen to your conversations - who do you tend to speak about in a negative way? Who do you generally have an issue saying something nice about? Who are you quick to judge and criticize for how they behave and the decisions they make? For me in my life, those are the individuals that I find I've allowed an issue to fester around.
God gave us tremendous power to speak words of life, to build up those around us, to encourage and uplift others, and to mirror Christ in every area of our lives. But, oftentimes, we choose to focus our attention on criticism and judgement. Your speech reveals your heart. And, sometimes our hearts are ugly.
What's even more amazing, is that when we fall incredibly short in an area of our lives (and we will), God's grace is there. We can confidently come into His presence and let Him know we messed up, let Him know that we didn't represent Him and His character as we've experienced it and He's shown us. But in that moment, we are able to walk away clean and forgiven, and we are empowered to extend the same grace and forgiveness to those in our lives with whom we have relationships with. God is always calling us to a higher standard; stretching us and molding us so that we continue to grow more and more like Him. But, the only way we can do that is if we're willing to listen when He speaks to us and make the correction He's offering.
"Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil, hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle."
- Romans 12:10 (MSG)
"Love one another with brotherly affection [as members of one family], giving precedence and showing honor to one another."
- Romans 12:10 (AMP)