Take a Breath

Mike Mazzalongo

I met an unpleasant man the other day. We didn't speak, only shook hands but his body language and the manner of his grip told me that he wasn't interested in speaking or knowing me. This wouldn't have been so bad except that he was serving as a greeter at a congregation I was visiting.

Afterwards, in the car, I was about to share my negative opinion of this "brother" with my wife when I realized that sour words were all I had. It dawned on me that she didn't need to know about this man's perceived failings and to say nothing would at least end the experience with some sort of silent victory.

I suppose Jesus may be referring to this exact experience when He says,

Judge not lest ye be judged for in the way you judge others so will ye be judged.
- Matthew 7:1

Jesus gives the principle and command, but James provides the actual way this can be done in his epistle when he says,

...be quick to hear, slow to speak…
- James 1:19

You see, I've always had trouble with criticism. It seems that receiving it is always painful and giving it rather easy. It is in my case anyways. But with this recent experience comes an epiphany that clarifies the relationship between the command and the proper keeping of that command. In a word - breathe. Take a break between the formation of the criticism in your mind and the expression of that criticism with one of like mind. It will surprise you how much negative criticism you can avoid spreading when you place one single breath between the thought and the tongue.

Try it. I guarantee that you'll be breathing easier if you do.