I started off thinking I had to watch and change the way I talked about people. Being careful to guard my words.
I think, as I let these thoughts simmer, that what I really need to be doing is changing the way I think about people. Not letting my thoughts run free, but guarding them.
A few people have impressed me in my life by how they talked. One of those was my nursing preceptor, Vicki. I was glued to her side for three months working 12 hour shifts. In that whole time, I never saw her speak a bad word about anyone. This was not in a Christian environment where we are supposed to be nice to each other. No. And it was among nurses in a hospital. Nurses, well, we are nice people, really!, but we can be a little crude at times. Let's just say that because of what we do, we have to talk about some things you would rarely dream of discussing, so our speech can easily get too far off. Vicki didn't. Yet she wasn't judgmental of others. There was nothing in her attitude which said, "I am so good and don't act like that, you shouldn't either." She was just herself.
I used to think what good control she had over her tongue. But as I think about it more, I think it is more what good control she had over her thoughts. Isn't that what Jesus said, "Out of the heart, the mouth speaks."
I think that if we only guard our words, our thoughts will betray themselves. They will in how we speak, our attitude, in that subtle almost imperceptible way we communicate. We will still communicate our value of others, even when we guard our words. Even when we don't want to communicate our thoughts. They sneak out. At least mine do.
I want to be like Vicki. I want to have that gentleness, that infectious sense of humor, that quiet compassion, and that clean heart underneath it all.
Sixteen years later, and Vicki's three months with me still have an impact. They leave me still wanting to be like her.