One of the gifts of leading students on a regular basis is that I get to speak truth to them. I don’t have to wait for convenient moments or hard situations. I just get to go right in and shed light as much as can at all times. That said, it has been a great challenge for me to control my tongue and watch what I say and not always try to just be funny and filled with wit. I have to filter my thoughts and ideas and words more than normal and only speak what I really believe. Why? Because these students may latch on to one little thing I just sort of threw out on a whim and didn’t really mean. It happens all the time. I’m beginning to really learn, though, through my big old hard-headed head, that there is a vast difference between what you say and what others hear.
A month or so ago, I was teaching to our middle school students on a Sunday morning. We were talking about movies and media and the influence they can have on our daily lives. I grabbed a sponge and dipped it in a bowl of water. I explained to them that we are like that sponge, and whether we realize it or not, whatever we put in us will come right out.
I pulled the sponge out of the water and, of course, water came right on out. Dripping everywhere. I said this is what it’s like right after we’ve experienced a movie or song or book. In the immediacy of the moment-after, we let that water fall everywhere. As an 8th grade boy watching Varsity Blues, I spent the next day or two dropping F-bombs like somebody would take away the ones I didn’t use. I met my quota pretty quickly. The sponge was flowing. But over time, the sponge settled. It just sat there. Holding water. Holding F-bombs or whatever else we dipped it into.
Until we’re squeezed.
And then I pressed hard on the sponge again. Water came crashing. When we’re squeezed in life, whatever we put in will come out. So those Varsity Blues F-bombs found their way back out, even beyond the aftermath of the movie. When we’re pressed, the truer version of ourselves comes out clearly. Whether we want it to or not.
In saying all this, I told students to guard their hearts and minds. That maybe they need to even flee from immorality. To potentially walk out of or away from a movie. To turn off a song. To put that magazine down.
Now, that’s what I said. That may not have been what was heard.
This morning at our staff meeting, one of my coworkers who has a middle-school-aged son, came up to me and said she wanted to share something. Her son had just told her that he felt convicted to turn off a movie that had swearing in it. Because “Bobby said that if there’s swearing in a movie he turns it off.” Well, that’s not quite what I said. And if you’ve ever watched movies with me, you know my filter is pretty wide. Needless to say, I’ve never turned off a movie because of profanity. Maybe I’ve looked away deliberately from other things that my flesh really wasn’t interested in looking away from. But profanity? Come on. My wife swears like a sailor. I’m kidding. Sort of.
Again, I said one thing. And another thing was heard. And because it was helpful for that person to hear, I didn’t feel any need to go back and reconcile the difference. Ultimately, good was done. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes this whole idea can cause trouble. And hurt. A lot of it.
Because I love you, and because I’m challenging myself towards brevity, I’ll share the rest with you tomorrow.
In the meantime, have you been misheard? Was the line fuzzy on your end or theirs? Are you communicating clearly? Are people hearing you effectively?
I’m going to shoot it straight with you, I’m not always as clear as I think I am. You’ll see what I mean. Hopefully. I might say one thing. You might hear another.