Sunday, March 2, 2014

It's Been Thirty Seven Years, and I'm Still Ashamed!

Death and life are in the power of the tongue:
 and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
Psalm 18:21

It's Been Thirty Seven Years, and I'm Still Ashamed. I was a junior in high school. I even remember exactly where it was: headed up the front "B" wing stair case. I remember exactly what I said, and to whom I said it. And, to this day, when I think of my words and the harm it could have done, I cringe.  

As I walked up the stairs, a girl, one of my class mates passed me. That's when I said it; one sentence, six words that would start a small fire storm. (If you went to high school with me and are reading this, you may or may not know about this incident. If you don't know, don't ask. If you happen to remember, please be discrete. I am omitting names deliberately.)
I said it to sound cool. I said it to impress the one listening: it did neither. It was not true. It was something I heard said by another classmate. It was vulgar, senseless, and worst of all, false. How could I say something so flippant and so destructive? 

Strange that I could be so careless when only a year earlier I had been the object of such a rumor. I was deeply involved in an organization at my high school in which I was training for what I thought would be my future career. A rumor was started within that organization that I had reported another member for smoking pot. It was not true. I didn't know of anyone in our group that smoked pot; nor would I have ever said anything, if I had known. Nobody wants to be labelled "a nark." But labelled I was. I was ostracised by the entire group. I was warned that I was facing severe reprisal. They would have made good on their threats had it not been for a mutual friend who intervened. Within a week the it was all cleared up and I was back in their good graces. But I could not get past how quickly my "companions" turned on me. At the end of the year, I left that organization and my life took a completely different direction: all because of one rumor. So it makes no since that I would commit the same awful transgression that had caused me so much grief. 

As with all rumors it didn't take long to have its effect. Two days later another classmate confronted me. She was of the impression I had made the statement about her. I explained, "No! I was talking about this other girl!" Well that made it all better! Now I had spread the rumor further. It didn't take long for my words to get back to the girl about whom I had lied. One of our mutual friends confronted. His name was Tim. His is the only name I'm using. He was well loved and respected by all who knew him including me. Tim first asked me if I had said it. He didn't jump to conclusions. He had learned something about integrity that I had not learned at seventeen. He was not threatening, nor did he lose his temper. But he let me know in no uncertain terms that I what I said was hurtful and unacceptable. 

As sincerely as I could, I apologized. I asked him to tell her I was very sorry for my words, and it would never happen again. Although Tim and I got along after that, we never had much of a friendship. Fortunately, nobody really believed the lie. The only one who's reputation was damaged was mine. I lost the respect and friendship of about a dozen or so acquaintances in our circle. I'm happy it wasn't worse. It usually is. If we are to guard anything, it is our words, 

If you were to mention me or the incident to this woman, she may or may not remember. I would like to think she has long forgotten. After all, it has been thirty seven years. But, I cannot know that. Nor can I forget. The Bible says: Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, 
that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. (Col. 4:6) 

Measure your words. We can never measure their damage or their benefit. 

Just a thought.
Thanks for reading.