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Proverbs 15:1-2 (New International Version)

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.”

I have always been a person who speaks her mind. In my teens and twenties, my mouth often led me into trouble that I should have avoided. As I have grown in the Lord’s wisdom, I have learned how to speak the truth in love, when it is necessary. I have not perfected doing so (nor will I ever on this side of heaven), but I have come a long way from my tactless, crass earlier years. One of the tidbits of wisdom that has helped me is a principle that a pastor, who used to disciple my husband, taught us sometime around our fifth anniversary. It’s called the “One Fool At A Time” Rule. It is so simple, it’s almost scary. It is this: In any given exchange between two or more people, if one person is “actin’ a fool,” you can’t act one, too. Isn’t that simple? Now I will be the first to tell you that many of the principles I learn from God’s word are easy to understand, but difficult to apply. For some reason, the “One Fool” rule makes it easier for me to apply the above scripture to whatever situation in which I find myself.

A few years back I had been circling a crowded parking lot, at a neighborhood grocery store, searching for a spot near the entrance. When I spotted a woman getting into her car, I pulled up and waited. The woman took a good while (in parking lot time) to settle in and start her engine. Then she took even longer to back out. While I sat staring at her brake lights, waiting for them to turn from red to white, another car pulled up from the opposite direction  for the same spot. I’ve been driving long enough to know what was happening. The other driver, ignoring my signal, intended to take the spot I had been waiting for. Immediately I tensed up, sat forward and positioned myself to scoop the spot as soon as it was free. Thankfully, the driver of the car leaving the spot backed out toward me, preventing the other driver from swooping in. She left me plenty of room to pull in while she blocked the other driver. It seemed she had observed that I had been waiting and positioned herself to help me out. At least that’s how I chose to read her actions. For all I know, she could have dropped her cell phone or paused while having a timely “senior moment.” Honestly, I still don’t know. And at the time, I did not care. I got what I wanted. I got my spot. The other driver was wrong to try to “steal my spot” anyway. I expected that she would not be happy, but such is life. She tried a power move in the parking lot and failed. C’est la vie!

Satisfied with myself, I popped out of the car, wallet and list in hand, ready to do my marketing.  At no time could I have foreseen what was about to happen. Just as my heel touched down on the electronic sensors that trigger the automatic door, a barrage of the foulest curse words reached my ears. I turned around to see who was having a fight in the parking lot only to spot the other driver (the one who had “missed” my spot), stomping across the parking lot, squeezing the hand of a hapless, disheveled little girl. The child, struggling to keep pace with the gait of this “lady” (and I am using the term quite loosely here), alternately stumbled and righted herself in the few moments it took her handler to cross the lot into the store.  I was so focused on the little girl, who quite frankly looked as embarrassed as I felt, that I nearly missed the creatively-strung-together verbal abuse that tumbled out of the mouth of the woman who drug the child into the store.

It was clear that this woman had much to say and she that intended to say it to me. So I let her. This experience was the first live example I had ever seen of a person arguing alone. She would ask a question, then answer it almost at the same moment.  When she finished her tirade, which was so littered with f-bombs that the manager of the store started over presumably to “manage” the situation, to my surprise as much as hers – and I suspect everyone else within earshot, I calmly and pleasantly asked her, “Is there anything else you’d like to share?” Of course there was. She responded that she would kick my (insert 5-syllable expletive here). Again, my own aplomb surprised me. I carefully regarded her for the first time. Her appearance, expression, and demeanor spoke louder than her words. I wondered if she knew all they were saying about her. I responded simply, “Yep. You look like the kind that would.” And with that I left her and began shopping for groceries.  Our exchange clearly had plenty of fool in it. And I had determined that that day, it would not be me.

Later that same evening, however, I stumbled into a foul mood and in a private exchange with Mykel, I found myself “venting” to him about something that he had done. My husband is an extremely dignified and patient man. Even when I have been at my worst, throwing a top rate tantrum that would rival any 5-year-old’s, he has always extended me mercy and grace. That evening, in the midst of my record-breaking fit, he shamed me into checking myself without uttering a word. All he did was inhale. That’s it. It wasn’t calculated. It wasn’t rude. While meeting my gaze, giving me his focused attention,  smiling lovingly (not patronizingly) at me, he inhaled and exhaled very quietly. Neither his expression nor his demeanor changed. At that moment, I realized that he had been quiet for almost the duration of this very long-winded and one-sided “conversation.” Guess what? I was the fool. He was obeying the “One Fool At A Time” rule. I was immediately convicted. So I did what any self-respecting idiot would do. I shut up.

My point was a valid one. And I had made it over and over. I had been heard and well understood. But my manner was egregious. If there has to be a fool, I can tell you this, I don’t want it to be me. The only thing worse than being the fool, is realizing that you are the fool. The woman in the parking lot had violated my airspace with the filth that poured  out of her mouth. But without uttering one curse word, I had dishonored my  spouse. I was a stranger to her. There was no reason for her to regard me. Clearly she lacked the self-respect required to treat others with dignity. But what was my excuse? For all I know, she was not even saved. But I have the Holy Spirit living in me. The only right thing for me to do was to apologize. I did – but not right away (as I should have); I was way to full of pride at the time. When I did finally humble myself to approach Mykel, he had not only already forgiven me, but had to be reminded of the incident. I tell you – true love really does forgive a multitude of wrongs. And apparently, it forgets, too.

Here’s to receiving and giving true love!

Be blessed Family!

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