“You idiot!”

Those were my words.  I used them just a few days ago while I was driving in Tulsa.  Actually, I  pretty much screamed them.  What would evoke, elicit, and trigger such a verbal outburst from me?  Upon sober reflection afterward, I realized that nothing did.  Oh, there was definitely something going on around me.  But, to say that the actions of someone else evoked/elicited/triggered my response would somehow place the blame for my choice of words somewhere other than squarely and solely upon my mind, heart, and emotions.  Yes, someone came within inches of sideswiping me while going 65 mph on the BA Expressway, but that near collision didn’t make me say what I did.  I chose to.

I reacted and spoke within an instant, so how does that qualify as a choice?  Jesus said that we speak from the overflow of our heart (Matt. 12:34).  Have you ever surprised yourself by something that you said, and then wondered (either inwardly or aloud), “Where did that come from?”  Jesus said, “I’ve got your answer.  It came from your heart.”  I decide and determine what I allow to dwell within my heart and mind.  Whatever I permit (choose) to let live there will ultimately manifest itself in my speech.  Looks like I’ve got some heart work to do.  Abusive speech (Col. 3:8) and outbursts of anger (Gal. 5:20) don’t conform to a heart that is being molded into the likeness of Christ.

Not only did my “idiot” comment give me an opportunity for a heart check, it also caused me to consider just how grossly unfair and judgmental it was.  My choice of words betrayed a willingness to reach a completely negative assessment of someone and pronounce a sweeping condemnation on the basis of a single action.  Granted, it was a very dangerous and potentially lethal situation, but whatever happened to cutting people some slack?  Who was this guy?  Quite possibly a very likeable fellow; perhaps a devoted husband, caring father, committed Christian, faithful friend, and a hard worker.  Wow!  Someone like me!  I think I just called myself an idiot! 

I, too, have made some bad decisions and exercised poor judgment at times; both while driving and with my feet planted firmly on the ground.  I definitely don’t want someone judging my entire character on the basis of an isolated incident in my life.  Jesus teaches me that I should be willing to offer that same grace and latitude to others (Matthew 7:1-5, 12; John 7:24).