My children are often involved in smear campaigns. As a matter of fact, at least one of them is, at least once a day. Sometimes, both of them. They smear grape jelly on the counter. They smear peanut butter on their clothing. They smear dirt from the garden all over my carpets.
As you can imagine, this frustrates me. Many days, I feel more like the maid than the mom. At times, I have even considered going on strike. But then I remember – they are just children. Of course they are going to make mistakes, and leave behind messes. That is what children do.
And I also must remind myself of the clothes I have had to get rid of because I have spilled things or smeared things on them, leaving permanent stains. Yes, I am clumsy. I spill things. Please forgive me.
It is the knowledge that I, too, make mistakes and leave messes that keeps me from quitting my job as a stay-at-home mom. When I mess up, I don’t want or need anyone to judge me, or remind me of my failures. I just need someone to help me clean up my mess, or support me while I clean it up myself.
As we gear up for our next presidential election, it seems there is a lot of smearing going on. But this kind of thing isn’t unique to politics. At water coolers across the country and around the world, there is gossip and slander, judgment and criticism. We criticize our bosses for the way they lead. We criticize the stylish woman for spending too much money on clothes, and the frumpy woman for not spending enough on clothes. We criticize the mayor and the city council members and the school board and the teachers and . . . well, you get the picture. We are all quick to point fingers. We are all quick to find fault. It is our nature.
But can you imagine with me a better, more perfect world? Can you imagine what a great place this would be, if we all felt safe? I am so grateful for our military men and women who work to keep us safe from terrorists. But honestly, I don’t always feel safe, right here in our homeland. And it’s not the terrorists I fear. It’s the gossip, the slander, the judgment that we sling at one another.
I am far from perfect. You don’t even need a magnifying glass to find my faults – they are right out in the open for everyone to see. I make mistakes, just as we all do. But I really think it’s my flaws, my weaknesses that make me a stronger, more compassionate person. The mistakes I’ve made in the past have made me more tolerant, more loving toward others who make those same mistakes.
I want to be the kind of person who makes others feel safe. I don’t want anyone to ever fear me, or worry that I will judge them or hurt them with my words. I don’t want others to wonder if I will criticize them and slander them behind their backs. I want them to know that, no matter what their weaknesses, I will support them and love them and try to help them in any way I can. I want to be always gentle, never harsh, always uplifting, never degrading, always loving, never hateful.
Those are lofty goals. But why shouldn’t we aim for the very best? Why should we settle for being mean, judgmental, haughty, hateful people, when we can aspire to being good and loving and kind and . . . safe?
All it will take is a little self control. After all, we all have those unkind thoughts. But we don’t have to act on them. Just because something shows up in our brains doesn’t mean we have to let it tumble out of our mouths. It is our actions, not our thoughts, which show the depth of our character. And amazingly, once we train ourselves to act in the right way, our thoughts will often follow.
So next time my little ones smear chocolate on their brand new church clothes, I’m going to take a deep breath, smile, and say, “Oops! It’s okay. We all make mistakes.”
And I’ll remember that my response to others’ mistakes will last a lot longer than a stain.
John 8:7 “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”