This morning as I was standing in line for my morning nourishment, the gentleman behind me mumbled under his breath, "How long does this take?" Granted, there were three folks ahead of him, including me, and the patron at the counter had a complicated order and the other employee was handling an issue on the phone. For a moment I contemplated how to handle this. The sarcastic side in me wanted to turn around and explain exactly how long it would take. "The person at the counter will be done in 73 seconds and then the second person, depending on what she orders should be finished in 49 seconds assuming her order is considerably less complicated than the first, and I know what I'm getting and since I'm here every day, it will only take 38 seconds, so in a little under 3 minutes you should be set." I didn't. I did, however, pause and wonder what the gentleman was looking for? I'm quite sure he wasn't expecting an explanation of how long it would actually take. He might not have expected any response at all, or he might have been inviting me to turn around and join in.
Are you ever tempted to respond to grumbling or comments made under the breath with "How are you?" or "What's going on in there?" What's inside comes out. Anger, negativity, jealousy, it all comes out in some form or fashion, either in our words or actions.
St Paul addressed the pettiness at Ephesus saying, "…let us all speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil…Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear…Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together will all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you." (4:25-32)
In other words – be self aware. The things we say, even under our breaths while standing in line, can stay with people – for better or for worse.
Fr. Steve Rice
Rector, St Timothy's Episcopal Church