When We’re Afraid of Saying the Wrong Thing

I find lately that I’m easily tempted to fear “saying the wrong thing.”

These are days without mercy. Times where lines are drawn, and camps formed over subjects large and small. We’re instructed that words are codes and any of us who unintentionally mumble the wrong phrase or ask a question that makes us suspect, are suddenly labeled “part of the problem” – or worse.

To think I judged those who hid in silence during the Boxer rebellion in China or in the early days under Hitler when Jews were first disparaged or in the South in the sixties when some refused to stand with people of color for fear of retribution. I thought of those days as somehow long past and irretrievably part of history.

I was so wrong.

Now, I am beginning to understand how easily fear creeps in, how little room reason is given when voices are raised, and how subtly bullying can happen between civilized adults.

Pressure to silence is just a dark tunnel on the pathway to denying the truth altogether. It’s a blindfold before the firing squad of social tyranny. Since when did my own voice become the enemy?

I’m ashamed of my fear because it’s not the way of Jesus-followers. We’re called out of fear. And yet, for the sake of truth, I must own up to it. Speaking truth, first in the privacy of my own heart, is part of the remedy.

And what I have learned in my five-plus decades on this planet, is that fear is a part of life on this side of glory. But, what is vital is that we fear what it makes sense to fear.

Jesus said it this way:

“‘I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Luke 12:4-7

These are, in fact, the words of Jesus. Mentioning hell. Endorsing a healthy fear of God – a fear that leads to freedom from the useless fear of other people and their opinions of us. Reminding us that no matter how insignificant we feel – we are known to the God of Creation.

And Jesus, who faced every temptation as we do, was likely also tempted to fear saying the wrong thing. But, Jesus, loving the Father purely, knew to align His soul properly and this freed Him to speak truth even when others lay in wait to ensnare Him.

Jesus understood, deeply, what it’s like to live among people without mercy just waiting for Him to misspeak: “As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.” Luke 11:53-54

Jesus is truly my hero.

He navigated past this temptation into a life of spoken and lived truth and because He did, so can we.

Here’s how I believe He did it:

I have begun one practice Jesus didn’t need. To bolster my courage and cultivate humility (why this is any challenge is a testament to the stubbornness of sin), I regularly meditate on Jesus’ last hours – His arrest, trial, and crucifixion.

And when I have re-read of Jesus’ suffering, I remind myself that even if I were the only human ever created, the cross would have been necessary to secure my salvation. Because I received mercy, I can extend it to others. Because I am a recipient of grace, I offer it freely to others.

And then, I reflect on the resurrection of Jesus. For after the suffering, after the death, after the grave, there is eternal life.

If the truth of Christ costs me friends, favor, following, or fellowship on this side of glory, even if it costs me my life – my story is not over. Hatred will never have the last word on my life because my Redeemer lives.

Love overcomes fear, my friends. Don’t be bullied into silence – it’s a detour from truth into denial. Now, more than ever, it’s important to speak the truth of Christ to the poor and the powerful. To do this, we must first let Jesus speak His truth into our own hearts and minds.

Tomorrow, let’s look for opportunities to speak or write truth when it most scares us most to do so. Then, do it again the next day. In this way, we speak light into the darkness and discover that darkness has no defense against the coming Kingdom.

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    The Conversation

  1. Mary Ellen Santaniello says:

    Dear Lori,
    This is so timely for what my sister (a Christian) is going through right now. Her daughter has “unfriended” her on FB because of political differences.
    Thank you for voicing what we know to be true.
    Mary Ellen

  2. Marge says:

    Amen! Thank you so much for this timely message.

  3. Bruce says:

    Ooooo…good one Lori. Your comparisons to the Boxer rebellion, the holocaust, and slavery hit home. Speaking the truth in love can be dangerous but is always essential.

  4. Laurie Wood says:

    Thank you for these words Lori! I was struggling to blog on this same subject but you’ve said it better than I was…well done.

  5. Phil Disney says:

    Thanks for speaking about the fear of intimidation, now threatening Americans.