My mom warned me about it, the Bible predicted it, people have created pithy sayings for it. But I succumb to it time and time again. To what am I referring? Borrowing one of the aforementioned pithy sayings, I’m talking about “sticking my foot in my mouth.”
When I was 16, I got a job in a grocery store as a cashier. I wasn’t making burgers or soliciting strangers over the phone – it was a great first job. I made $3.75 an hour and was excited about it. One evening, we were fairly busy and it was time for me to go home. I put my ‘closed’ sign up but told the four customers in line that I would check them out. As I glanced down the lane, I noticed that the lady at the very end had a deformed left arm. (Please remember that detail – it’s important).
All four customers had very full carts, so it took a while to begin checking out the last lady. (At this point I had completely forgotten about her deformed arm). She had an infinite number of coupons, as well as some government-assistance vouchers. I was working diligently trying to bag her groceries, take her coupons, process her vouchers and send her on her way. And she was working hard trying to put her bags in her cart, arrange her coupons, tear out the appropriate vouchers and pay the remaining balance. We were both so busy, there wasn’t much opportunity for conversation. So I decided to say something, and that’s when this came out of my mouth:
“It looks like you could use another hand!”
I remember the cashier next to me freezing mid-transaction and staring at me, mouth gaping. I remember looking at my customer – seeing her deformed arm, her expression of pure outrage – and realizing what I had just said. Sometimes it’s so bad, you just have to laugh. And I did. As I was apologizing to her. I’m pretty sure she didn’t accept my apology, and I’m fairly certain she never shopped at our store again.
We’ve all put our foot in our mouth. You’d think we would self-correct after our first case of verbal diarrhea, but it doesn’t seem to work like that. So why is this an ongoing problem for us humans? Even when our intentions are pure, we slip up and hurt those whom we never intended to hurt. It’s almost as if there’s something at play that is out of our control. And I believe that there is.
In my experiences with this, I’ve learned that I really don’t have a mouth problem, or a foot problem – I have a heart problem. That’s difficult to admit, because I really want to think that I’ve got a good heart. But I don’t, and there’s nothing I can do to change that. So, every now and then my mouth reveals the wickedness in my heart. Ouch.
So what’s the solution?
Other than never saying a blessed word to anyone ever again, I think the answer is grace. Not until heaven will I stop saying stupid things, and until then I rely solely on the grace of those I inadvertently offend. I hope that next time you say something regrettable (or are on the receiving end of this wonderful experience), you will extend grace to yourself and to others.
To sum up – I’ll try to be careful with my words and control my tongue. But please know that my tongue is affected by my heart, and my heart is a fallen heart, prone to wickedness. Other than that, I’m a wonderful person. Unless you have a deformed arm.
Thanks for the grace.