featured graphic for Pastor Mike McKay and his wife Kristi of Neighborhood Church

Weekly message from Neighborhood Church: Don’t be so mean

Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Several years ago, a news story went viral of a man who was punching and tapping the seat of a woman in front of him on an airplane. Evidently, according to CBS Los Angeles who interviewed the woman, the man behind her had asked if she would not recline her seat as he ate. She kept her seat upright for about 10 minutes then reclined as she has a back condition. Because he was in a seat that did not recline, he did not like that, and began to hit her seat enough that it jostled her head. Neither would relent. When she requested the help of a flight attendant, she was issued a formal warning, with the potential to be escorted off the airplane. So, who was in the wrong? According to a news poll, 70% of people side with the woman that man was in the wrong, and 30% side with the man. What do you think? Who was being mean?

It reminded me of an incident I encountered about a year ago. I was on my way into the dry cleaners when a group of high school students were passing by. They had evidently just walked over from their high school and were heading into, or coming out of, one of the shops along this strip mall. They were laughing and talking, and, though I could not tell what they were talking about, all of a sudden, the tone of the conversation changed. The laughter had stopped and you could see furrowed brows, pursed lips, folded arms, and harsh words began to fly. The pack of students stopped walking and things seemed to escalate. Finally, one girl in a firm but gentle tone said nicely to the whole group, “Don’t be so mean you guys, come on!” The little crowd stopped speaking and stared at the girl. It was an awkward silence only broken by a guy who blurted out, “I’m going for a smoothie. Anyone want to join me?” Someone laughed and the group moved on. As I finished my errand at the cleaners, I noticed they were all hanging out laughing at the smoothie shop. That one girl’s comment seemed to change the whole tone of the moment they shared together.

In light of the airplane incident, I wish someone would have called out, “Don’t be so mean you guys, come on!” To the the man, the woman, and the airline attendant! Now, sure we don’t know all the details, but why could they not have been kinder and worked it out or been willing to be inconvenienced for the sake of another. It’s tough when we see people get into it with another person, and out of frustration, say something snarky or cutting, or be obnoxious. “Ahh…don’t be so mean!”

The wisdom of God challenges us with our words.

Colossians 4:6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

‘Unwholesome talk’ is mean speech that tears others down, venomous words that are intended to inflict pain. Unfortunately, it seems so natural to say mean and hurtful things. Yet, God challenges us to the opposite.

Psalms 141:3 Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.

Romans 12:16-19 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Yes, our words and actions matter. What we say and do makes a difference, and though it seems common and acceptable to send a biting tweet, lash back with a well-placed retort, or be more aggressive in what we say or do, a gentle answer and being kind actually has the greater influence. It does take us thinking before we speak, but if we do, it might change the whole atmosphere of your office, home, school, city, friendship, or marriage. So be careful with your words.

Church is a great place to learn the value of kind words. If you don’t have a church you regularly attend, we would like to invite you to view or visit Neighborhood Church. Our website has all the information you need for times and locations of all our Sunday gatherings. We would love for you to join in. You can also find us online at neighborhoodchurch.com. As well, if you would like to view any of our past worship gatherings or videos, visit our YouTube channel, or just search Neighborhood Church Cypress or Neighborhood Church Los Alamitos on their YouTube site.

Seeking to be careful with my words along with you,

Mike McKay, Lead Pastor
Neighborhood Church