2002-04-18 - Toothpaste
Prov 15:1-2 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. 2 The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness. (KJV)
I was reminded today of an illustration that has stuck with me for years. The idea is simple and yet devastatingly profound. Those are the things that are memorable. I encourage you to share it with your group.
Take a bunch of kids. In this case they were Sunday School kids just about to be dismissed from the congregation to go to their classrooms. The other ingredients are a table spoon, a stop watch, a dinner plate and a tube of toothpaste. The goal is to see how fast the toothpaste can be squeezed out of the tube and on to the plate - mostly on the plate anyway. Ask who wants the toothpaste and every hand pops up high. When they are asked to pick one of their peers, they generally pick one of the larger, stronger kids in the group. The others are encouraged to cheer their champion onward.
"Go!" The clock is ticking and the toothpaste begins to pour out of the tube at a high rate of speed. By 20 seconds into the effort, the parents and other adults are cheering too. As the tube becomes more and more empty, the going gets a little tougher. At 69 seconds, the goal is reached and the tube is empty. Everyone is applauding and excited. The time of 1:09 is recorded on a small note pad.
Now the spoon is given to one of the kids and the stop watch is cleared. Everyone waits for the second part of the event. What do we do with the spoon? Now we're going to see how long it takes to get the toothpaste back into the tube!
Imagine the laughter that follows. The new assignment on the surface is simple to reverse the process, but the difficulty is higher by several orders of magnitude.
Have you ever said something in an angry or unthinking moment and wished you could take it back? You can apologize all you want, but the words are out. The other person may indeed know that you didn't mean what was said, but the pain is still very real. Just like it would take time to get the toothpaste back into the empty tube, it will take time for the words to lose their sting. There are times when it is better to just walk away and say nothing. When someone is just not understanding what you are saying, when they are being unreasonable, or when you feel your emotions getting the better of you it is probably time to step back and calm down. The far wiser move is to take the time and deal with things when everyone has had a chance to cool off, than to need far more time for wounds from angry words to heal.
Lord Jesus, It has often been said that You gave us two ears and one mouth and that they should be used in that proportion. Help us keep our words and deeds under control so that they will honor You. Amen.
Grace & Peace,