Dear Terrible Intentions,
I’ve seen it played out in a myriad of conversations but it keeps playing out in my mind, namely, instead of giving people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to their vocal intentions, I assume that there conversation directed toward me carries with it the worst of intentions. Terrible intentions, I wish you would vanish like the light that steps aside in this cold, dark December. Yet, I know that assuming the worst of people only gives me freedom to feel better about myself and worse about them, because they are the one with the terrible intentions. Why do I do this? Could it be from a lack of really listening on my part? Yes, it could be. But, the more insidious part about this, terrible intentions, is that in ascribing the worst possible intentions to my conversation partner, I never allow myself to hear the beautiful truths of others, the praises and joys of their words.
Might I add to this that the gravest danger in not actually hearing someone else’s conversation or intentions is that I fail to see myself and others as image bearers of God. If I go on in this life only thinking that people are ascribing by their words the worst of intentions toward me, I am squashing the glimmer of the glorious way God has made them. Not only this, but I am unduly criticizing myself in such a way that nothing good comes from my life, believing the lie that life is not worth living. So what to do about you, terrible intentions?
Look them in the eye, tell that person across from you to repeat what they are saying to you, repeat their lines out loud and allow the truth to sink into your bones. Allow your theology to inform and transform your present life right now by hearing what others are saying to you and taking their word at face value. Have you been hurt by their words or terrible intentions before, if so, put your cards back on the table and listen again for the truth. Have you given them an opportunity to speak clearly and rightly? If those whom you are speaking with are conversing with ill intentions, find out what’s going on that is making them speak in such a negative way. Instead of allowing your mind to swirl with the next painful verbal attack, ask a simple question of them, namely, “Tell me what’s going on in your life right now.” Let us never forget that at the heart of the gospel are those who desire to hear the stories of others so they might share the Story of the Son with the world.
Your worst nightmare,